The polls are surprising: the popularity of “ObamaCare” is surging after a week in operation. People were tired of all the negative talk and perhaps expected to see something as monstrous as what they had heard, but the reality turned out to be much smaller, simpler, and easy to describe (try “a web site where freelancers can buy group health coverage”). When something actually exists, it is easier to see how it might be useful.
There may be other reasons for the abrupt shift in the polls. The House Republicans’ government shutdown, purportedly to protest ObamaCare, is so unpopular that people find themselves liking ObamaCare, or at least the general idea of access to health care, out of spite. It is hard to find anyone who agrees with the idea of just canceling everyone’s coverage and shutting the system down — yet that is the exact idea that House leaders had staked their reputation on.
Given that contrast, it makes sense that Republicans have taken a hit from their high-profile attempts to gut health care. All polls this month place the Republicans, the Tea Party, Republican leaders, and key Republican ideals well below major-party levels. Compare the Republicans’ latest 24 percent favorable rating to Ross Perot’s 46 percent going into the 1992 election, or Ralph Nader’s 34 percent in 2000, and you get an idea of how far the Republicans would have to climb to be competitive again. More worrisome still are the nearly identical poll numbers for the Republican Party and the Tea Party. As far as most of the public is concerned, the smash-and-grab politics of the Tea Party have already come to define the identity of the Republican Party.