Now for the counteroffensive. The House Republicans are pushing to repeal Obamacare. While they will doubtless succeed in the House and either fail in the Senate or face an Obama veto, their decision to raise and debate the issue is a crucial one. As happened when it passed last year, Obamacare will ignite a national controversy.
But are conservatives prepared to win the debate? When Obamacare was being pushed through Congress by the likes of Pelosi, Reid, Obama and Emanuel, the right was galvanized. Rallies, demonstrations, town-hall forums, television ads, letters to the editor, television commentary — all bombarded the nation, emphasizing the faults of the bill.
But now these voices are stilled, complacent, perhaps exhausted. Or are they intimidated by the liberal spin on the Gabrielle Giffords shooting that we all must lower our voices?
Already, liberal groups and unions are running ads calling on House Republicans not to repeal Obamacare.
One such spot, paid for by Americans United for Change, says: "Members of Congress know that their health insurance plan can't deny coverage for their kids. Congressmen can rest assured that their insurance plan won't drop their families if they get sick.
"The Affordable Care Act gave your family the same protections that members of Congress get. But Republicans want to take that protection away from your family. They want to put insurance companies back in charge. Call Congress. Tell them you deserve the same health insurance protection they get. Tell them: Don't repeal the Affordable Care Act. You deserve the same health insurance protections as Congress."
Where is the conservative reply? Where are the conservative voices? Could the opportunity to repeal Obamacare give the left a chance to make its case without an answer?
Voters still oppose Obamacare. The Rasmussen Poll has them backing repeal by 55-40. But if opponents of the program remain complacent, those numbers could change quickly.
Republicans need to remind America that the huge increases they are now paying in their health insurance are concrete evidence of the impact of the mandates in Obamacare. They need to point out that the $500 billion of Medicare cuts are coming and that, already, reductions in physician fees are driving thousands of doctors to close their doors to Medicare patients. The Republicans need to explain how Obamacare creates an entirely new entitlement and will swell the deficit.
Voters don't buy the argument that Obamacare will cut the deficit. According to Rasmussen, 45 percent say that repealing the program is more likely to cut the deficit, while 33 percent say leaving it on the books will be a better way to reduce it. Republicans need to underscore this linkage.
The larger point is that the new Republican House gives conservatives a chance to re-litigate the battles they lost in Congress in 2009 and 2010. At each turn, they need to re-fight the battle for public opinion and carry it each time.
A president usually sets the agenda. But conservatives can keep the focus on the unpopular spending and legislation Obama jammed through a Democratic Congress by pushing for de-funding and repeal.
Republicans won't get repeal. But they will be able to defund the program. They can block the IRS from enforcing the individual and employer mandates and can stop the Department of Health and Human Services from slicing $500 billion from Medicare and implementing healthcare rationing. But it will be a long fight.
Republicans will have to demand these concessions as a prerequisite for approving the budget and perhaps even a debt-limit increase. They will need to stand their ground in the face of the hue and cry that they are being irresponsible and holding the nation hostage.
And they'll need public opinion on their side!
They will need the tea party to get loud and conservative groups to start advertising. It's the second round. A round the opponents of Obamacare can win. But they mustn't go to sleep. They need to wake up!
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann