Democrats in Tough Races Need to Stick Up For Obamacare

| Thu Dec. 12, 2013 10:56 AM EST

Greg Sargent reports on the latest polling in battleground districts:

Top Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg — having just done extensive polling in 86 competitive House districts — is advising Dems they should go on offense over the Affordable Care Act. The key finding: Even though voters in the battlegrounds have extreme doubts about the law, they still prefer implementing it to the GOP stance of repeal. And after a month of crushingly awful press for Obamacare, opinions on this matter in the battlegrounds have barely budged since October.

....Offered a straight choice between “implementing and fixing” the health law and “repealing and replacing” it, voters in these 86 districts prefer “implementing and fixing” by five points, 49-44. That’s only a slight difference from October, when implement and fix led by seven, 51-44.

For a variety of reasons, I think this is good advice. At the most basic level, voters prefer candidates who stick up for what they believe, even if they don't entirely agree with them. The worst possible position is to vote for something and then waffle around about whether you're ready to stand behind it.

That said, these results aren't surprising. They're about the same as every national poll I've seen for the past year. The numbers vary a bit from poll to poll, but there's virtually always (a) a small majority who either support Obamacare as is or want it expanded into something even more liberal, and (b) a small majority who prefer keeping it to repealing it. The first result varies depending on question wording, but the second one never does. Even in polls that show a majority opposed to Obamacare, you almost always get a majority (or a plurality) who are also opposed to ditching it outright.

These poll results sound about right to me, and I suppose members of Congress like to see polling in their district that confirms national trends. Still, the national trend has never been for repealing Obamacare. Some of that may be status quo bias, and some may be a recognition that Republicans have no credible alternative, but it's been pretty consistent for years now.