The face of shifting Obamacare tides?  Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images
The face of shifting Obamacare tides?  Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Yesterday the news was that Republicans have cut back (albeit certainly not eliminated) their Affordable Care Act-based advertising; today Greg Sargent reports that Senator Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, actually claims credit for provisions of that legislation in a new TV ad.

Pryor doesn't say that he helped pass “Obamacare,” or even that he helped pass the “Affordable Care Act.” Instead, he simply touts provisions of the law that almost certainly sound good to most people, saying that he "helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions."

The wrong way to think about this is to imagine that the ACA is getting more popular. It isn’t, and Republicans would be more than happy to run the 2014 election cycle as a referendum on whether people like the law.

But what this does get to is that individual provisions of the law (especially, naturally, the benefits) have always polled well, and the Republican solution -- repeal -- is even more unpopular than the law itself.

Or, more to the point: If most people other than hard partisans on both sides had enough of the debate over Obamacare long ago, that doesn’t mean that health care will disappear as political issue. Instead, it means that eventually health care will eventually revert to being just a normal political issue. And that Democrats will use it more than Republicans, just as they had done for years until Obamacare passed in 2010.

As long as Barack Obama is president, Republicans are going to want to hang onto Obamacare politics by running against the law. Not as much as they did when they all assumed the law was seconds away from collapsing or had even already collapsed. Not as much as they did before millions of people would lose their current, very real, coverage under a blunt repeal. But still. After all, with implementation still recent, Republicans can still attempt to blame anything that goes wrong with anyone's health insurance or health care on the law, whether or not it's related.

We're not entirely back yet to the the way things were before 2009, when Democrats were eager to talk health care and Republicans were not, given that "do more on health care" virtually always polls well, and Democrats are always going to be the party that supports "more." But in Arkansas, it appears that we’re getting closer.

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net.