Republicans, for example, have exulted not only in their continuing House majority but also in their ability to withstand Democrats' harsh attacks on their
budget blueprints, which called for major changes in Medicare. "There is no evidence that the Democrats' message got through," said a senior House GOP
leadership aide. "Our House Republican position has become stronger."
Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday night that the results showed that "the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax
rates," and he embraced the House-passed GOP budget "that begins to solve the problem."
And yet, even veteran Republican insiders concede that the GOP should be careful not to view the campaign skirmishes over Medicare as a complete victory.
"The result is muddled," said Bill Hoagland, a longtime senior Senate GOP aide who recently became senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
"The Democrats' complaints didn't have much leverage. But the result will be short of an endorsement [of the House GOP budget] by voters....Any proposal to
limit Medicare will be analyzed carefully in its impact for cost-sharing" for beneficiaries.
Obama reached out to Republicans in his election speech. "Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual ...," he said. "And in the coming weeks and
months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together."
But congressional leaders were more circumspect, including on their views of health care issues.
When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, was tapped by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to be his running-mate, Democrats claimed
that they would benefit from the increased focus on the Ryan-crafted budget. But Democrats and their allies concede that their rhetorical attacks largely
"I had felt that Medicare would have a big impact on the election. That didn't happen," said John Rother, president of the National Coalition on Health
Care. "Admittedly, Republicans had a complicated proposal. But Democrats could have done more to raise the fear factor. I don't think that [their point]
got through that the proposal would erode the core benefit promised" in Medicare. He added that this year's campaign revealed a growing political trend:
"Issues have become less important than partisan ID, especially in moving voters."
The House Democrats' failure was not from lack of effort. Of the more than 100 video advertisements that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
ran this fall in battleground House districts, roughly half focused on health-care issues -- chiefly Medicare.
"Keith Rothfus praised a plan that would end our Medicare guarantee ... costing seniors an extra $6,400 more a year," said a typical DCCC ad that was
designed to defeat the GOP challenger to Rep. Mark Critz. A similar ad attacked freshman Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, for having "voted to
essentially end Medicare ... end guaranteed Medicare benefits ...[and] put the insurance industry in charge...." Rolfus won; Buerkle lost.