Obamacare Wasn't to Blame for Loss
Charlie Cook thinks President Barack Obama and the Democrats ruined their prospects by failing to focus on the economy in 2009-2010:
In mid-summer 2009, polls universally showed that Americans wanted the president, along with the overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, to focus on the economy and job creation. Instead, in its infinite wisdom, Congress chose to focus almost exclusively and obsessively on health care reform. Although this was a worthy objective, the effort would likely have been better spent in a time when people weren't so worried about their economic well-being. This horrific choice, to focus on the Affordable Care Act rather than the economy, besides costing Democrats their House majority—not to mention platoons of Democratic governors and state legislators who would have been handy in drawing the congressional redistricting maps the next year—created scar tissue that remains to this day.
There was a Twitter fight today over that, so I’m going to hit it Twitter-style:
- Cook is right that the relatively weak economic recovery led to the 2010 and 2014 Republican triumphs.
- Although having a Democrat in the White House was the main reason.
- Yes, Obama might have done better on the economy with better policies, even given Republican rejectionism.
- But the “focus on the economy” point (as opposed to success on the economy) is mostly bogus.
- Obama’s approval fell steadily after he took office, starting in the first months when he and Congress were focused on the economy.
- The stimulus package, Detroit bailout and other Obama efforts galvanized the Tea Party and ended any Republican approval for the new president.
- Democrats in the White House and Congress kept working on the economy after that.
- Obama sent the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill to Congress in June 2009, and they both worked on it for the next year. That’s about the economy!
- Obamacare is about the economy, too. Health security is a big part of economic security. It is mostly working as intended.
- Health-care reform was a longtime Democratic priority and central to Obama’s 2008 campaign; ignoring it would have had costs.
- So why the midterm defeats? That’s what happens to the party in the White House.
- Ronald Reagan (who had a terrible recession) and Bill Clinton (who had a weak recovery from a recession) both had about the same approval ratings at their first midterms as Obama did.
- Then both recovered strongly when the economy went into high gear.
- Of course, Reagan’s party was clobbered in the 1982 and 1986 midterms anyway. It’s what happens.
- A final point: Austerity policies championed by Republicans, and carried out largely against Obama’s preferences, slowed the recovery -- and hurt the Democrats in 2012 and 2014.
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