Karl Rove has a column today promising Republicans that they can still win by running against Obamacare. And when Rove tells Republicans they’ve got a winning hand, you should listen, because he would never wildly overstate his party’s prospects. Except that one time in 2000 he predicted George W. Bush would win 320 electoral votes. And that time in 2006 when he insisted Republicans would definitely hold both houses of Congress. And that other time in 2000 when he assured reporters that Bush would win the New Hampshire primary. And of course that time in 2012 when he refused to accept the outcome of Fox News’ own election desk.
Rove is correct that public disapproval of Obamacare has consistently exceeded approval. The trouble for Republicans is that their party hasn’t managed to keep the debate solely focused on the question of “is this law good or bad?” Repealing Obamacare is less popular than keeping it. And the Democratic position of building on the existing law polls far ahead of the Republian position of scrapping it and starting over. Different polls phrase variations of this question differently and yield differing results, but this Kaiser version is fairly typical:
Likewise, another recent poll shows that even voters in competitive red states this year would rather work to improve Obamacare than replace it with something else. Democrats may have the liability of defending the status quo, but Republicans have the liability of lacking a plausible alternative. Thus, the most recent Pew poll shows that voters trust Democrats over Republicans to handle health care, 45 percent to 40. This would seem to at least complicate Rove's giddy advice that Republicans are as strong as ever on the issue.
Rove’s column goes on, and on, and on about the horrible things he imagines Obamacare has done to America. Finally, we arrive at these two paragraphs:
Putting ObamaCare in the center of their campaigns will also force GOP candidates to spell out what they would do instead of ObamaCare. Americans do not want to return to the broken status quo in place before Mr. Obama made an even bigger mess of our health-care system.
ObamaCare was unpopular when it passed. Republican candidates must show through real-life examples why those concerns were fully justified, and how millions of lives have been unnecessarily disrupted by this liberal calamity.
Republicans need to spell out what we would do instea — oh, look, I’ve run out of space.