Obama: Losing the Messaging War on Health Care

National Journal Staff
National Journal

As the dust settles on the Supreme Court’s remarkable decision on the health care law, the Obama campaign still appears to be pursuing a "wishful thinking" strategy. They are simply wishing that the Affordable Care Act, the president's signature domestic achievement, would go away.

"I don't think the American people want to have this debate again," White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew said on Sunday, echoing a mantra rolled out by other Obama surrogates.

But the Republican Party clearly does intend to have this debate, all the way into November, and Lew's tepid talking-points are a warning sign that the White House is, yet again, surrendering the message war on a central issue that even Obama partisans admit was poorly marketed the first time around, before and after act was signed into law in 2010.

Already the law’s opponents, with their flair for the simplistic, are aggressively portraying the Supreme Court justification of the individual mandate based on Congress' taxing powers as a furtive "middle-class tax increase" introduced by Obama. That GOP narrative will sink in unless it is aggressively countered with a powerful marketing message.

The opportunity to resell the law exists. As Newsweek points out, "polls consistently show that more Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act than support it--not because they've evaluated and rejected it but because they don't understand it."

In the end, Obama really has no choice but to mount a selling job extraordinaire on his health care law. A second term just might hinge on it. Read more

--Michael Hirsh


Romney Adviser: Individual Mandate is a Penalty, Not a Tax NEW!
[National Journal, 7/2/12] Romney’s “Etch-a-Sketch” advisor Eric Fehrnstrom seemed to go off the GOP script on Monday, saying that the individual mandate upheld in last week’s Supreme Court ruling is a “penalty,” not a tax.

Romney’s Latest Health Care Quandary
[Real Clear Politics, 7/2/12] Romney has been disciplined in steering clear, for the most part, of issues that are not directly related to the economy.  But many supporters say the candidate should not allow the health care issue to fall into the background.

Dems, Echoing Romney, Say Mandate Is About Punishing ‘Freeloaders’ NEW!
[TPM, 7/2/12] In the wake of the decision to uphold the individual mandate under Congress’s taxing power, Democrats are unifying behind a message to refute the GOP contention that they raised taxes on the middle class. They say they’re simply punishing freeloaders, just as Romney once did.

Doing Double Duty at Justice
[National Review, 7/2/12] Only 46 of the 93 U.S. Attorneys have donated money to a candidate for office in the past six years: collectively, those 46 have donated $235,652 to Obama, the DNC, and Democratic candidates since Jan. 1, 2007; not one has donated to any GOP candidate.

Two Reasons Presidential Campaigns Can’t Hide Negative Ads
[National Journal, 7/2/12] Obama and Romney will have a harder time running under-the-radar negative ads on TV this cycle for two reasons: social media, and the fact that Virginia – home of the national press corps -- is a swing state. 

Vice Presidential Hopefuls Play the Name Game
[Politico, 7/2/12] The veepstakes has morphed into an open exercise in cautious but unmistakable resume buffing. Even if a contender is not ultimately chosen, the media attention, increased fundraising, and wider following that comes with being a “short-lister” aids future attempts at higher office.

For a Vacation Spot, It’s Not Just Another Summer
[New York Times, 7/1/12] The 30 members of the Romney clan began gathering in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire over the weekend to start their annual vacation. The Times takes a look at the town – which bills itself as “the oldest summer resort in America” – the reporters, and the residents.

Romney, a Privately Devout Mormon, Worships With Family on Holiday
[Associated Press, 7/2/12] The Romney clan made up nearly a third of the congregation gathered in Wolfeboro’s branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Sunday. The family’s devotion to the Mormon faith provides a rare glimpse into Romney’s private life that could help him connect with the American public.

GOP’s New Health Law Front
[Wall Street Journal, 7/1/12] Republicans are planning to use a quirk of Senate rules that lets some tax and spending bills come to a vote under a procedure called budget reconciliation – which only needs a 51-vote majority to pass – to try to repeal the health care law.

Obama, Romney Camps Pull Out All Stops in Ohio
[Toledo Blade, 7/1/12] The last time Ohio voters didn’t pick the winner in a presidential election was 1960, when JFK lost the state but won the nation. Now, neither the Obama nor Romney campaign is taking a chance on the Buckeye State.

Column: Romney’s Bain Problem
[Washington Post, 7/1/12] The Supreme Court decision on health care only reinforced the importance of the economic argument Obama and Romney have been having for months. But this is where Romney’s Bain problem kicks in, as E.J. Dionne argues: Obama’s Bain ads have undermined Romney’s business experience, and served as a parable for how aspects of the current financial system hurt workers and local communities. 

The Fact Checker: Obama’s New Attacks on Romney and Outsourcing
[Washington Post, 7/2/12] The Obama camp has said that Romney “made a fortune advising companies on how to outsource jobs to China and India.” But the Post article does not actually say that transfers of U.S. jobs took place while Romney ran Bain Capital; instead, it states that Bain was prescient in identifying an emerging business trend.

The 1934 Dinner Party That May Have Saved ‘Obamacare’
[Daily Beast, 7/1/12] When Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security, his labor secretary feared the Supreme Court would reject it – until Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, a Republican appointee to the court and future chief justice, told her over dinner that she could save the law by framing it as a tax.

Gains in Congressional Approval Could Undermine Obama’s Strategy
[The Hill, 7/1/12] Obama’s re-election strategy since the debate ceiling debacle last summer has been to paint Congress as unreasonably obstructionist and blocking practical legislation to increase employment. But congressional approval rating has been ticking up over the past six months.

Fact-Checking Immigration
[PolitiFact, 7/1/12] Obama claimed last year that the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico is now basically complete; but PolitiFact rated that “mostly false.” But border crossings from Mexico to the U.S. are down, not up. 


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