Obama's Popularity at New Low with Hill Democrats

Image: Obama's Popularity at New Low with Hill Democrats

Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013 01:52 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The president's relationship with congressional Democrats is at a record low, and his apology over the Obamacare website launch isn't helping matters.

"Is he even more unpopular than George W. Bush?" an unnamed House Democratic chief of staff told The Hill. "I think that's already happened."

Some who attended a congressional chiefs of staff meeting earlier this week said Democrats are angry over the damage President Barack Obama is causing to the party, and even talked about cancelling planned Obamacare rollout events. One even said that if the issues aren't fixed "this could be the demise of the Democratic Party.

At another meeting with Senate Democrats and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a senator asked for a political point of contact at the White House. And around Capitol Hill, many people are being blamed for the political problems, but Obama is increasingly under fire for most of the party's woes.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says, however, that Democrats won't be running only on Obamacare next year, but will focus on the budget and creating jobs. She told an audience at a BuzzFeed-sponsored political forum that Democratic House members are actually "very excited about" Obamacare.

"Yes, they could have done a better job of describing it," Pelosi said of the White House messaging on the Affordable Care Act that passed in 2010 and goes into full effect next year. “No, they didn’t hurt us for 2014," she added.

But Pelosi's comments seemed to run counter to the view of 39 Democrats who sided with House Republicans last week on a GOP-sponsored bill to make insurance companies reinstate cancelled policies that didn't meet the minimum standards of Obamacare. The president has threatened to veto the measure, even though he requested that the companies extend the policies voluntarily for one year to allow people time to transition to other plans that meet the healthcare law's requirements.

Pelosi insisted, though, that Republicans are still playing politics with the issue instead of helping their constituents enroll in the healthcare program, as Democrats are trying to do because "we're proud of it.""Any big transformative initiative is hard," she told Buzzfeed, noting that Republicans like focusing on Obamacare problems to avoid dealing immigration reform, gun control, budget, and other tough issues.

"This is the only subject they want to talk about. We want to talk about plenty else," she added.

But a senior Democratic congressional aide told The Hill Democrats up for reelection in 2014 are concerned about the "lasting mess" the rollout could become if problems continue well into the midterm election year.

The president last week acknowledged in his apology for cancelled policies that problems with his signature healthcare program "has put a burden on Democrats, whether they're running or not, because they stood up and supported this effort through thick and thin."

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