There are still plenty of Republican candidates who imagine that they will sweep to victory this fall on a promise to repeal the healthcare reform legislation enacted earlier this year by the Democrats who currently control the House and Senate.
The Democrats can only hope that the repealers will raise their voice and be heard.
Because the pattern in the polling suggests that healthcare reform, imperfect as it may be, is gaining popularity at an exponential rate.
Indeed, more Americans now support the reforms pushed through Congress by the Democrats—against the opposition of the Republicans—than at any point since the Associated Press started polling on the question in September 2009.
Indeed, a plurality of potential voters now say Congress did the right thing, with 45 percent favoring the initiative to 42 percent opposing it.
That’s a dramatic shift in support for reform.
In the immediate aftermath of President Obama’s signing of the plan in March, following a raucous Congressional debate that saw Republicans portray relatively mild reforms as "totalitarianism," opposition spiked. By late April and early May, the reform package was opposed by a 46-39 margin.
At that point, as congressional Republicans were fresh from their appearances at April "Tea Party" events, there was a lot of talk about "running against reform" and "running for repeal."
Serious Republican strategists have for some time been counseling their candidates to suggest that they were for "repeal and replace"—a bow to the fact that reforms were needed and that many of them (protecting people with pre-existing conditions, allowing more flexibility when it comes to purchasing prescription drugs) remain extremely popular. But at a point when the Grand Old Party tends to be erring for to the right as it plots platforms for November, there is not much taste for nuance.
As such, Republican challengers in key races across the country continue to attack Democratic members of the House and Senate for moving to address the health-care crisis. In California, for instance, Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina still features a "Repeal It!" petition on her campaign website, with the candidate’s signature featured front and center. As recently as this week, Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson, who is challenging Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, declared that: "The Health Care Bill is the greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime. It must be repealed.”
If the shift in public sentiment on the issue continues, however, Democrats will be wise to respond to the attacks on their votes by simply saying: "Why, yes, yes I did."
To the calls for repeal, their reply should be: "I don’t think so."
That’s the right response, of course.