For Democrats, the politics of the health care law are creating a death spiral of their own. For the White House to protect its signature initiative, it needs to maintain a Democratic Senate majority past 2015. But to do so, Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to insulate vulnerable battleground-state Democrats, who are all too eager to propose their own fixes to the law that may be politically satisfying, but could undermine the fundamentals of the law.
Race-by-race polling conducted over the last month has painted a grim picture of the difficult environment Senate Democrats are facing next year. In Louisiana, a new state survey showed Landrieu’s approval rating is now underwater; she tallied only 41 percent of the vote against her GOP opposition. In Arkansas, where advertising on the health care law began early, Sen. Mark Pryor’s approval sank to 33 percent, a drop of 18 points since last year. A new Quinnipiac survey showed Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who looked like a lock for reelection last month, in a dead heat against little-known GOP opponents. Even a Democratic automated poll from Public Policy Polling showed Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina running neck-and-neck against Republican opposition, with her job disapproval spiking over the last two months. These are the types of numbers that wave elections are made of.
The big picture isn’t any better: The president’s approval rating, which historically correlates with his party’s midterm performance, has dipped below 40 percent in several national surveys. Democrats saw their nine-point lead on the generic ballot in the Quinnipiac survey evaporate in a month, and a CNN/ORC poll released today shows Republicans now holding a two-point lead.
“You want to prevent your race from being about Obamacare. If you enable your race to be about Obamacare, you’re making a mistake,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who’s working for Landrieu. “You need to explain what you’re trying to fix, and you better be trying to fix something. If there’s nothing you want to fix, there’s something wrong with you. At this point, it’s hard to defend the benefits, but you can say we’re not going back to the evils of the old system.”