Are Dems Making a Safe Bet on Health Care?

Will health care reform be popular enough by November to give cover to Democrats who are wading into thick waters today to vote for it? Interested parties have pointed to Medicare, which wasn't especially popular when it was enacted, but which has become so entrenched in the American mind that it is untouchable as a political program, and much to the frustration of deficit hawks. Democrats believe that, in the fullness of time, in due course, will all due consideration, voters will find that whatever reservations they had about the process, they'll appreciate the end result. Seniors, in particular, may actually find themselves paying less money for prescription drugs because the so-called Medicare Part D donut hole is immediately closed.

Right now, one thing is clear: the whole shebang -- Obama-Democratic-branded health reform -- is a disaster with voters who don't lean towards either the Republican or Democratic Party. We've known that Republican opposition to health care is stronger than Democratic support for it. Republicans, seeking to scare the wits of out congressional Democrats, are distributing a poll from On Message Inc. that finds that of those voters who don't express a preference on the generic ballot question -- would you rather vote for a Democrat or a Republican in Congress -- between 58% and 60% have a negative view of health care reform.

I don't know whether this question was primed by others where negative information was provided about the bill, but I bet that Democrats wouldn't dispute the core premise. The counter-point is that generic health care reform -- and the specific proposals that Congress will vote on, when NOT LINKED to Democrats, Obama or the events of the past year -- remain popular. Thus is the wellspring of hope for the Democrats that the bill will be disassociated with its the factors behind its conception by November.

Also, since it's too early to construct likely voter models, it's safe to say that a good number of true independents, who make up less than 10 percent of the electorate, won't vote in midterm elections unless they are absolutely compelled to send a message of disapproval. They might -- but remember -- the Republican Party is just as unpopular as the Democratic Party.