When the Affordable Care Act began its ignominious roll out in 2013, Republicans figured they were handed the winning strategy for victory in 2014. The public’s dissatisfaction with how the program was working, the incessant delays for implementing major facets of the plan and the weak numbers of people signing up all pointed to a very succinct game plan for Republican candidates this year. Use Obamacare as a blunt weapon and beat every federal Democratic incumbent with it as much as possible.
Indeed, that is undoubtedly the strategy for Cory Gardner against Mark Udall. Gardner needs the election to essentially be a referendum on the Affordable Care Act. It is reasonable to think, while risky, this game plan might work out well for Gardner.
However, what happens to that game plan if the nation is not concentrating on how much they like or dislike Obamacare, but rather riveted to the various foreign affairs debacles going on around the globe?
The situations in Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria, not to mention Iran, have the distinct capability to dominate the headlines and push Obamacare delays and dissatisfaction to the back burner.
If Obamacare does get kicked to the back pages, it will be somewhat of a double edged sword for Democratic incumbents. Because if foreign affairs are making big news, the President will also likely be looking worse than he did in the midst of the Obamacare rollout meltdown.
However, the key difference is that Democratic incumbents won’t have placed key votes that helped to implement potential foreign affairs fumbles.
But the bludgeoning Democrats with Obamacare strategy does take a serious hit in a world that is more worried about World War III than about mandatory health care for twenty-somethings.
So how exactly will Republicans play it if they find themselves with an electorate that couldn’t care less about Obamacare updates? That is a good question that I doubt many Republicans want to try and answer.
The trouble with having one clear and simple strategy for victory is that there usually is not a plan B.
The GOP is not running against Obama in 2016, it is running against the Affordable Care Act. And if the ACA is not center stage, Republicans could even run a risk looking out of touch with focusing on a much lower priority if we’re embroiled with problems abroad.
In fact, if the United States is actively involved with any of the various foreign policy hot spots in the world, Democratic incumbents may benefit from an overall mood of voters not wanting to switch horses mid-stream. George W. Bush rode that concept to a second term. It’s a longshot, but it’s not unheard of for Democrats to try the same idea.
What is clear is that while the ACA is not going to go away anytime soon, foreign affairs may very well eclipse the spotlight in the American press. If that does happen, Republican candidates counting on the ACA keeping the attention of voters would be wise to arrive at a back up plan.
Vladimir Putin may be wreaking havoc with President Barack Obama’s legacy, but he may be wreaking even more havoc with the Republican’s strategy for victory in 2014.
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– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.