What Ted Cruz Gets Wrong About Obamacare

Contra his pronouncements, Americans oppose defunding the president’s health care law if it means government shutdown.

U.S. Senate Candidate Ted Cruz speaks during the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, Texas,  Saturday, June 9, 2012.  Cruz and David Dewhurst are locked in a fierce fight for the Republican nomination to fill Texas' open U.S. Senate seat. 
National Journal
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
Sept. 23, 2013, 12:07 p.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s man­tra for some time now has been the GOP needs to listen to the Amer­ic­an people and de­fund the pres­id­ent’s sig­na­ture health care law. And he’s cor­rect that three years after its pas­sage, most every poll shows that Obama­care re­mains un­pop­u­lar with the Amer­ic­an elect­or­ate. But Cruz has failed to grasp an im­port­ant nu­ance — namely, that Amer­ic­ans are even less ex­cited about the idea of bring­ing the gov­ern­ment to a halt to block the law.

Amer­ic­ans op­pose de­fund­ing Obama­care by a plur­al­ity of 44 per­cent to 38 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a new CN­BC poll of 800 people around the coun­try.

Yet as re­cently as Sunday, Cruz was mak­ing the pop­ular­ity case on na­tion­al air­waves. “Amer­ic­ans trust Re­pub­lic­ans more than Demo­crats on health care,” he told Chris Wal­lace on Fox News this week­end. “The whole reas­on why,” he ad­ded, “is be­cause we’ve been stand­ing up, lead­ing the fight to de­fund Obama­care.”

There are vari­ations in sur­vey res­ults. A poll con­duc­ted by Rasmussen earli­er this month in­dic­ated that 51 per­cent fa­vor gov­ern­ment shut­down un­til Con­gress cuts health care fund­ing. But as shut­down looms, that res­ult is sound­ing in­creas­ingly off.

The CN­BC poll found that op­pos­i­tion to de­fund­ing Obama­care in­creases sharply when the is­sue of shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment is in­cluded. And a poll con­duc­ted by Dav­id Win­ston, the House GOP lead­er­ship’s poll­ster, found a full 71 per­cent of re­spond­ents op­pose “shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment as a way to de­fund the pres­id­ent’s health care law.” The ap­prov­al num­bers? Twenty-three per­cent.

What’s more, Win­ston told The Wash­ing­ton Post, in his sur­vey, even the Re­pub­lic­ans say shut­down is a bad idea, 53 per­cent to 37 per­cent.

Can’t let facts get in the way of a good talk­ing point.

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