The man in charge of House Republicans' campaign efforts said Friday that Obamacare will be the defining issue of the 2014 midterms, but he declined to predict how many seats his party will win next year.
"I believe it more now than ever," Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told reporters during an event hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "Now that it has become a category 5 political hurricane, it is not just causing havoc in certain regions of the country, it is ripping apart every region of the country."
On Thursday, President Obama announced that insurance companies could continue to sell existing plans for one year even if the policies don't meet the law's standards. People losing their insurance, combined with the inability of many consumers to purchase new health plans on malfunctioning Obamacare websites, have fomented a backlash from the public.
Walden said House Democrats, like the president, needed to apologize to the public for the canceled policies. Regardless, he said, voters will punish them at the ballot box next year. "If you don't like your Democratic House member, you don't have to keep him or her," Walden joked, quoting a radio host friend of his.
The NRCC chair demurred when asked if his party would win seats, but he said the GOP "clearly has the ability to gain seats — a net-gain seats — in 2014."
Democrats had boasted after last month's government shutdown that they were in a prime position to gain seats in the lower chamber, in and of itself an impressive feat during a midterm election where the president's party traditionally loses seats. Walden acknowledged that the shutdown was not well received by the public, but said there was a key difference between that and Obamacare: Eventually, the government was funded.
"The thing about Obamacare is it continues on," he said.