The face of shifting Obamacare tides? 

Republicans Won't Have Obamacare Forever

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Yesterday the news was that Republicans have cut back (albeit certainly not eliminated) their Affordable Care Act-based advertising; today Greg Sargent reports that Senator Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, actually claims credit for one provision of that legislation in a new TV ad.

Pryor doesn't say that he helped pass "Obamacare," or even that he helped pass the "Affordable Care Act." Instead, he simply touts provisions of the law that almost certainly sound good to most people, saying that he "helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions."

The wrong way to think about this is to imagine that the ACA is getting more popular. It isn't, and Republicans would be more than happy to run the 2014 election cycle as a referendum on whether people like the law.

But what this does get to is that individual provisions of the law (especially, naturally, the benefits) have always polled well, and the Republican solution -- repeal -- is even more unpopular than the law itself.

Or, more to the point: If most people other than hard partisans on both sides had enough of the debate over Obamacare long ago, that doesn't mean that health care will disappear as political issue. Instead, it means that eventually health care will probably revert to being just a normal political issue. And that Democrats will use it more than Republicans, just as they had done for years until Obamacare passed in 2010.

As long as Barack Obama is president, Republicans are going to want to hang onto Obamacare politics by running against the law. Not as much as they did when they all assumed the law was seconds away from collapsing or had even already collapsed. Not as much as they did before millions of people would lose their current, very real, coverage under a blunt repeal. But still.

We're not back to the pre-Obamacare status quo yet. But in Arkansas, it appears that we're getting closer.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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