Why Obama is finally embracing the 'ObamaCare' label: 4 theories
Critics of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have long used the name "ObamaCare" as a pejorative to belittle the major health care overhaul. But now, as the Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of the law, President Obama and his allies are throwing their arms around the "ObamaCare" label, too. "Hell, yeah, I'm for ObamaCare," Obama strategist David Axelrod said in an email to supporters last week. White House senior adviser David Plouffe predicted on Sunday that by the end of the decade, the GOP will regret ever coining the name ObamaCare, since it will become more popular as its main provisions start taking effect. But ObamaCare isn't particularly popular now. So why is Team Obama pushing an "I like ObamaCare" website, T-shirts, and bumper stickers? Here, four theories:
1. The best defense is a good offense
Democrats readily "acknowledge they lost [the] message fight" on health care reform, say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. But Team Obama sees the Supreme Court hearings as an opening for a do-over. "They lost the first fight because they played too much defense," so "now they are doing their damnedest to get on offense — early and often." Of course, it won't be an easy sell. Many individual parts of the law poll well, but the term "ObamaCare" currently "stands for everything people don't like about the law."
2. Obama already owns "ObamaCare"
Embracing "ObamaCare" is largely a nod to reality, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. "The simple fact is that this law is Obama's No. 1 domestic achievement. It is his. It is ObamaCare." Democrats can read the polls, and they realize America hasn't warmed up to the law. But most of them still "know that their best course of action is to continue owning it, anyway." That smacks of desperation, says Kirsten Kukowski at the Republican National Committee. "If Obama truly wanted to own ObamaCare they would have done it long ago and not just when it became painfully obvious he's losing the battle."
3. Obama's popularity might rub off on the law
The White House sees the "ObamaCare" label as "an opening to make [the law] seem more personal," Marist polling president Lee Miringoff tells Talking Points Memo. That means using individual beneficiaries to sell different parts of the complex legislation, but also connecting it with the personal popularity of the president. As Obama himself has occasionally said since last summer, "I have no problem with folks saying 'Obama cares.' I do care." Eh, this may not work, branding expert Allen Adamson tells Reuters. People who already like the law will "intently associate it more directly with Obama," but "for the people who don't like it, [embracing 'ObamaCare' is] not going to make a lot of difference."
4. It's the name everybody uses — why not embrace it?
Let's face it — PPACA, or even ACA, doesn't "exactly roll off the tongue," says Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog. I'm not a huge fan of personalizing laws, but "major pillars of American public life need good names," and it's "hard not to notice the ubiquity of the 'ObamaCare' label." Actually, I've always liked the name, so "I'm pleased that the Obama campaign has now made it official," says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. "We have Pell grants and Roth IRAs, so why not ObamaCare?" More to the point, "the masses have spoken," and "ObamaCare" is "the only widely recognized name that PPACA has." If Team Obama can't beat 'em, it might as well join 'em.