What's Killing the Democratic Party?

With a bleak midterm outlook, is the economy or health care reform to blame?

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It's safe to say, things don't look good for Democrats this November. With a new Gallup poll giving Republicans a "whopping" 10-point lead on the generic ballot, the question pundits are asking now is: how did Democrats become so unpopular? For the last month or so, conventional wisdom held that the dismal economy explained the Democrats' misfortunes. However, with a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finding opposition to the Democrats' health care bill up to 45 percent from 35 percent, some are challenging that assumption.

  • Health Reform Caused Voters to Flock the Dems, writes Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics:

Democrats ignored the political problem of health care in the fall and winter - arguing that Martha Coakley and Creigh Deeds were bad candidates, that voters had been turned off by the health care bill because of the process, and that they would come around once the many benefits kicked in. Now, they're pointing to the economy as the only significant reason why the party is in trouble.

It would be difficult for any strong partisan to admit that such an accomplishment was so deeply unpopular. Yet the polling is pretty unequivocal on the relationship between the Democrats' fortunes and the health care bill. It was during the health care debate that the essential building block of the Democratic majority - Independent voters - began to crumble. It was evident in the generic ballot. It was evident in the President's job approval numbers. It was evident in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

  • I Second That, writes liberal blogger Jane Hamsher at Fire Dog Lake: "Rather than focus on jobs creation in a country with climbing unemployment rates, Obama spent the better part of a year focused on passing a health care bill that looks like it will play no small part in the Democratic Party's upcoming electoral woes. Well, we warned you."
  • Hold On a Second, writes Jonathan Chait at The New Republic: "It's obviously true that the Democrats lost a lot of support 'during the health care debate.' The health care debate took about a year. My argument is that, during a period in which unemployment was rising and the Democrats controlled the entire government, Democrats would have bled support regardless of what they were debating... The method of saying that Democrats lost support during (very long) event X, therefore (very long) event X caused them to lose support, is not a persuasive argument."

  • 'It's the Economy, Stupid,' writes Armando Llorens at Talk Left, borrowing a tired phrase: "I'm no fan of the health care bill but if you believe this nonsense, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. I would love to think that the American People are thinking beyond their wallets, to civil liberties issues, or the intricacies of the health care debate, the wars, or even the deficit. They're not. The economy drives public opinion on all the issues."
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