How much will Obamacare hurt Dems in 2014?
There are two schools of thought on whether the implementation of Obamacare will be a drag on Democratic fortunes in 2014 - especially in the Senate.
Both are legitimate scenarios. The first theorizes that no matter how bad things get in the implementation of Obamacare, that the president and Democrats will turn the tables and successfully blame Republicans for the snafus by claiming they obstructed the smooth roll out of the law.
The reality is that the GOP is a stink bomb in the public's mind right now and they may be willing to believe anything Democrats say about them.
On the other hand, not one single GOP lawmaker voted for Obamacare, and the bill's flaws will be seen as built in to the legislation, regardless of how it was rolled out. This is also plausible especially if Republicans can consistently portray this albatross as an exclusive Democratic property.
One reason a lot of people are starting to think that the second scenario is more plausible is the way that Democrats are starting to criticize the law.
Democrats complained this week about a one-year delay in a key program designed to help small businesses -- a central selling point for the healthcare law that now won't be in place when voters head to the polls next year.
"Senate Republicans will have the opportunity to campaign against Obamacare's rising health care costs, burdensome paperwork and broken promises and could use it to motivate voters against Democrat candidates, especially vulnerable ones in red states," Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said.
HHS has delayed by one year a provision that would have allowed small businesses in most states to choose from multiple policies for their workers. Although a handful of states will see increased competition next year, most will have just one plan to choose from until 2015.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told The New York Times the delay will "prolong and exacerbate health care costs that are crippling 29 million small businesses."
Democrats are also complaining more openly about other implementation delays. And the substance of the law itself isn't immune from bipartisan criticism -- 33 Senate Democrats cast a non-binding vote last month to repeal the law's tax on medical devices, saying it's a threat to innovation that could raise costs for consumers.
The party has long acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act has its flaws. Their new openness about those flaws comes after Obama's reelection, which ensured that the law would not be repealed before it's fully implemented.
But it also comes just ahead of the 2014 election cycle, when vulnerable Democrats in conservative states will have to defend their votes for the health law.
Landrieu is already facing a tough reelection fight next year. And one of the Republicans who has lined up to challenge her, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), is a doctor who still sees Medicaid patients when Congress isn't in session.
In addition to rank-and-file Democrats who voted for the healthcare law, Republicans this time are hoping to defeat Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) -- who was the primary author of the Affordable Care Act in his position as Finance chairman.
Senate Republicans' campaign arm attacked Baucus this week as the "ObamaCare architect."
It will probably be a mixed bag with some races turning on the pain caused by Obamacare while others barely affected. It will probably make a bigger difference overall in House races, saving some Republicans while knocking off a few Democrats. Both Landrieu and Baucus have tight races every time they run for re-election and Obamacare or no Obamacare, it will be very difficult to knock them off.
At this point, it looks like Obamacare's implementation is going to be far worse than anyone thought. But translating that into a winning electoral strategy won't be easy.