As they gear up for the 2010 midterms, Democrats and Republicans are both operating under the assumption that health care is a winning issue. Republicans think they can profit from Americans' resentment of reform while Democrats are banking on hints that public opinion is shifting their way. But what if both parties are wrong to run on this issue? National Journal's Charlie Cook says belaboring health care could distract, or even damage, both parties:
Does the Democrats' enactment of health care reform legislation mark the beginning of the party's turnaround, or the coming of an electoral apocalypse for it? Perhaps neither: It's rarely wise to bet that any single event more than seven months before an election will have a huge influence on its outcome. What's more, the next few weeks are a critical transition period in the 2010 cycle. Neither party should be under the illusion that it has time to waste savoring or ruing the events of the past month...
The fact that the health care bill lost popularity as time ticked away last fall suggested that voters were not only skeptical about an overhaul but also upset that Democrats were spending so much time on it. And now, all of a sudden, it's the "repeal and replace" Republicans who risk being seen as the ones dwelling obsessively on health care.
To win races this fall, Republican hopefuls don't need to convince independents that Democrats are drunk on power or brazenly thwarting the will of the people. They only need to convince them that shared power and "checks and balances" are good things -- that Democrats have gotten some of what they wanted but that fresh GOP voices could hold the president's party accountable