Right now the Democrats are enjoying a sense of solidarity, and Obama has shown he can flex some political muscle and deliver on a major campaign promise to improve the health care system. Those are no small gains.
The Republicans better stop counting their chickens and start offering people something more than carping and obstructionism. They shouldn't count on the public to recoil in horror over attempts to improve the health care system because I don't think that's going to happen. If the Republicans want to win in November, they better start displaying some real leadership and offering some concrete alternatives. Most people want the partisan bickering to be toned down, and they want to see Washington actually accomplishing something. The Republicans aren't offering very much on either score.
I think the health care push was poorly timed, and the vitriolic nature of the debate was too intense and dragged on too long. Obama just learned that he is not a post-partisan President, he can't rely on getting Republicans to cooperate or even accept compromise, although I do admire the efforts he made in that direction. But at least he now has his own party more solidly behind him, he has accomplished a major victory, and he can, and should, now turn his focus squarely on the economy, because that is the issue most directly worrying and affecting most Americans.
The Democrats now have to sell this new legislation as health insurance reform rather than health care reform, and the language they are already using reflects that shift. They want this bill to be seen as increasing consumer protection, and in many ways it does do that. If people can be made to see an immediate benefit to the legislation, and many should be able to do that, the Democrats should not be ravaged at the polls in November. If Obamacare becomes synonymous with consumer protection, rather than encroaching socialism, the Democrats will win this fight because they will be able to connect with the average person. The Republicans will come off as seeming indifferent, or callous, or too protective of the interests of insurance companies. It depends on how both political parties play this out in the coming months.
Obama inherited an economic mess. His job, and the job of the Democratic party, is to convince voters that they have a better conception of how to turn things around, and that the economic fixes already undertaken are starting to pay off. November is still months away. If the unemployment situation improves, or the housing market picks up, that will certainly give them a tailwind. At this point, most voters just want to know that economic relief is on the way. If it seems to be happening before election day, the Democrats will score points. If it doesn't happen, people will take out their anger at the ballot box.