Kay Hagan, as well as her fellow Democrats, needs to get over her fear of Obamacare. For the past month, she’s been been avoiding talking about the program but she had better start defending it. She can’t run from it and, besides, the program is getting more popular, not less.
The latest brouhaha is whether or not Obamacare sank Alex Sink in a Florida special election for Congress. It didn’t but even if it did, it’s March, not November. If the public is fixated on the ACA in October, the sentiment “I made a mistake” is not going to get her re-elected.
To win in a mid-term election, Hagan needs strong support from her base since turnout will be the single most important factor. Democrats stayed home in 2010 and they lost. Republicans stayed home in 2006 and they lost. The side that shows up this year will probably win.
Yesterday, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg told The Washington Post that Democrats need to battle health care “to a draw.” I would argue that doing less will dampen enthusiasm for Hagan with the people she needs to show up on Election Day.
In North Carolina, the lack of enthusiasm for Obamacare stems more from the $8 million in ads from Americans for Prosperity than any real impact on families. As the deadlines pass and people realize that the economy is still growing, more people are getting covered and the costs of health care are finally going down, they will forget their fear of the health care program even if GOP superPACs fight to keep it alive. It’s not going to be the wedge issue that Republicans have been hoping for.
But even if I’m wrong, and the program is still unpopular, that doesn’t mean health care reform is. Part of the group that doesn’t like Obamacare is mad because it doesn’t go far enough. Those people are part of the Democratic base and Hagan needs them at the polls, not sitting on the sidelines. She needs to make the case for reform to keep them engaged.
Right now, Republicans are battling themselves in an increasingly heated primary. Hagan needs to use this opportunity to define herself as leader who will fight for the middle class instead of politician who wants to avoid talking about her record. Defending health care reform is a vital part of that argument.