By Juan Williams - 01/20/14 06:00 AM EST
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee, is sure he has the best political strategy for winning the six seats the GOP needs to capture control of the Senate in November — attack Democrats for the Affordable Care Act.
The Republican National Committee’s first major advertising buy of this midterm election season will come in the shape of attack ads in 12 states against incumbent Democrats who voted for ObamaCare.
Conservative activists are following the same strategy. The New York Times reported last week that the billionaire Koch brothers have already helped to air $20 million in advertising against Democrats who supported healthcare reform.
Oh, what a waste of money.
As President Obama joked about casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who spent millions trying to defeat him in the 2012 election: “You could have bought an island and named it Nobama for that kind of money.”
Instead, the GOP is labeling itself “The Party of No.”
“The Republican Party makes a huge mistake by defining itself by what it’s against and not what it’s for,” David Axelrod, President Obama’s former top political advisor, told me. “If they go into the midterms counting on opposition to ObamaCare as their reason for being they will only exacerbate the image that has driven their numbers down.”
But Ed Rogers, the longtime Republican fundraiser and strategist, wrote in The Washington Post last week that Democrats are trying to fake out the GOP by urging them to stop talking about problems with Obamacare.
“Republicans need to stick to the script,” Rogers wrote, “and much of that script centers on Obama, ObamaCare and the Obama economy. Period.
But note that Rogers is careful to add a focus on the economy to his prescription for a winning GOP strategy for the midterms elections.
So far, however, the money and the messages from Republicans are all focused on ObamaCare. The GOP attack advertisements remind voters that ObamaCare led the President to utter 2013’s lie of the year, as determined by PolitiFact — that Americans could keep their existing healthcare plan under Obamacare. The scripts also frequently mention cancelled plans, higher premiums, and people losing their favorite doctors.
Republicans in Congress are locked on the same political message.
One of their first votes of 2014 was another effort to discredit the healthcare plan — this time by insisting on the government informing the public if any computer hackers breach the HealthCare.gov website.
The GOP has also voted to require the administration to submit weekly reports on the number of people visiting the website and the number of people who apply for the healthcare system.
Those votes come on top of the more than 45 votes by the House GOP last year to defund, delay or destroy ObamaCare with a repeal.
A hardball political analysis suggests the GOP is lost in the weeds.
A January Quinnipiac poll found 39 percent of voters think the “most important priority” for the 2014 is the economy. The second biggest concern, at 23 percent, is the federal budget deficit. And in third place, at 16 percent, is health care.
What about all the talk about Americans who view ObamaCare negatively? After all, 55 percent disapprove while 40 percent approve, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.
It is important to factor into that polling such as a CNN/ORC poll in December, which found 15 percent of Americans who tell pollsters their perceptions of ObamaCare are negative because it is “not liberal enough.”
According to the Census, nearly 48 million Americans had no health insurance in 2012. Another 40 million are estimated to have inadequate health insurance that left them without coverage at some time during the year or had costs so high as to threaten their finances. People want solutions.
Meanwhile the non-stop attacks, absent any better plan — make that any realistic plan at all from Republicans— for how to fix the nation’s costly healthcare system is steadily becoming political wallpaper.
By November, the odds are it will be merely white noise to independent and Democratic-leaning voters. The website will be working and Americans will have become accustomed to the idea of a government safety net for people in need of healthcare.
Despite all the current negativity around ObamaCare, the real news is that more than 2 million have now signed up for the state and federal exchanges. Another 4 million have benefited from Medicare expansion.
Millions more have gained improved policies that cover preventative care, pre-existing medical conditions, eliminate caps on insurance spending and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 26.
And for all the hype about cancelled health insurance plans, Census reported last year that 68 percent of working age Americans, 18-64, get their healthcare through an employer-provided plan. Those plans have not changed or been cancelled because of Obamacare.
Last week, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he expects Republicans to come up with a healthcare plan later this year to replace Obamacare.
My advice: Check with Mitt Romney.