Mark Pryor voted for Obamacare.
Tom Cotton opposes Obamacare and wants to repeal it.
Game over, right? Tom Cotton wins handily in a state where President Obama and Obamacare are unpopular.
First, the obvious bad news for Mark Pryor. Pryor”s vote for Obamacare is a political problem, that point cannot be argued. Voting for it affords Republicans an opportunity to tie him to a program and a President that are not popular in Arkansas.
Early public polling suggests that voters may be less likely to vote for him due to his Obamacare vote. However, Arkansas public polls haven”t quite drilled down deep enough to get the full measure of Arkansans thoughts on Obamacare, in my opinion.
Mark Pryor is slowly honing in on a message on Obamacare that I don”t believe some folks have fully caught onto just yet.
Here is what Pryor said to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce last week that sums it up:
Let me say on the front end: the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. We need to go in and reform it and fix it. By the way, I’ve sponsored and co-sponsored some legislation – we’ve already passed some – and we’ve got more coming that I’m either the lead sponsor or co-sponsor of. The answer to your question is: I came to the conclusion that the Affordable Care Act was the right thing for Arkansas. I think you can look and see it’s already starting to work, it is working.
Essentially what Mark Pryor is saying is: reform Obamacare, but don”t repeal it.
Based on polling done by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin for Americans United For Change, Pryor may be onto something when it comes to reforming Obamacare, but not repealing it.
Garin polled likely 2014 voters nationwide and found that despite Obamacare”s unpopularity, a full repeal of it is not a winning message.
Summary from Garin”s poll:
Only 36 percent of all voters say they would prefer Obamacare to be repealed, whereas a 40 percent plurality would prefer to leave the law as it is (15 percent) or just make minor changes (25 percent). Another 18 percent of voters support making major changes in the ACA. Among the key group who are undecided in the 2014 generic Congressional ballot, only 39 percent want to repeal Obamacare.
This nationwide poll is not Arkansas specific, so we don”t know if a “reform it, don”t repeal it” message works here.
Public polls so far here have lacked nuance in their questions, and Arkansans key into nuance more than they are given credit for. Recent example: in 2012 Barack Obama received 37% of the vote in Arkansas while the Medical Marijuana Act received 49%. We are an intriguing set of voters here in Arkansas.
Cotton will continue to bang the repeal Obamacare drum, but at a certain point he must outline what he would replace Obamacare with.
By calling for the complete repeal of Obamacare, here is what Cotton wants to do with our health care:
1) Allow insurance companies to refuse coverage due to a pre-existing condition;
2) Allow insurance companies to impose a lifetime cap on our health care coverage;
3) Leave open the “Medicare donut hole”;
4) No longer allow young people to stay on a parent”s insurance until age 26; and
5) Let insurance companies spend whatever they desire on advertising, salaries and administration.
Those five points above are just some of the arguments Cotton will face by calling for a complete repeal, but offering no replacement.
Cotton”s gamble is black-and-white: Arkansans hate Obamacare so much they don”t care that parts of it are directly beneficial to their health care coverage. They just want it gone.
Pryor”s gamble is more nuanced: Arkansans hate Obamacare, but they realize parts of it directly help them and want to keep the good stuff. But they want to reform the parts that need fixing.
Cotton”s message of repealing Obamacare scores points and conventional wisdom among some folks argue that is all he needs to beat Mark Pryor. But for this message to work fully, Cotton must outline what he would do specifically to fix our health care system. And at a certain point, Cotton will be in the uncomfortable position of having to concede that parts of Obamacare are beneficial to Arkansans.
Pryor”s developing message allows him to show which parts of Obamacare does work and will work, and what parts of it he”d reform to make health care affordable and accessible to all. The unknown question at this time is if that message is enough to overcome Obamacare”s unpopularity?
Voters will eventually weigh the two candidates and their respective positions on health care. The candidate they believe is fighting for better health care is the one who has a better chance of getting their vote.
Both candidates are placing big bets that their gamble will win.