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Inside the Beltway: Obamacare could short-circuit Democrats

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Well, so much for all that exquisitely calibrated White House timing. The American public will hold Democrats accountable for the follies of Obamacare during the 2014 midterm elections despite the administration's strategic marketing and endless, cheerful assurances that everything was well. Everything was not, and is not well. Voters are watching, with increasing alarm. An Associated Press poll released Sunday finds that health care "remains politically charged going into next year's congressional elections," and is pronounced among those who would normally not worry about such things.

"The poll found a striking level of unease about the law among people who have health insurance and aren't looking for government help," the survey reports. "Those are the 85 percent of Americans who the White House says don't have to be worried about the president's historic push to expand coverage for the uninsured."

Among the numbers: 76 percent give a negative review of the Obamacare rollout while almost half of those who have private insurance coverage say their policies will be changing in 2014. Of that group, 77 percent blame the changes on the health care reform law; 69 percent say their premiums will be going up, while 59 percent say their deductibles or co-payments are increasing.

"The White House had hoped that the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment season for the uninsured would become a teaching moment, a showcase of the president's philosophy that government can help smooth out the rough edges of life in the modern economy for working people," the poll notes. "Instead the dysfunctional website became a parable for Republicans and others skeptical of government."

ALSO KNOWN AS FISCAL EXHAUSTION

For the lexicon: "budget fatigue," a malaise peculiar to lawmakers, and likely much of the public.

"When the Senate takes up the budget agreement this week, it will bring more than just fiscal relief," says Billy House, the National Journal congressional correspondent who coined the term. "For lawmakers, it will end four years of operating without a budget and bouncing from crisis to crisis The constant fiscal battles of recent years sucked up bandwidth in Congress."

There are many who say the battle has only just begun, but no matter. The burden of conflict has already exacted its toll.

Those battles have landed lawmakers "in fights that could not be won, tainting the politics and eclipsing other important issues," Mr. House says. "The lopsided and bipartisan passage of what is universally referred to as a small budget deal in the House on Thursday shows how eager some lawmakers are to move on."

GEORGE W. HIPSTER

Behold, a headline of note, and proof that time marches on:

"How George W. Bush evolved from the uncoolest person on the planet to bona fide hipster icon," comes from Vanity Fair. The magazine suggests that the arbitrators of taste now beam warmly upon the former president.

"If you are younger than 24, you might not have attended anti-Bush rallies in high school and in college. You might not have pinned 'SHRUB' buttons to your tote bag, and might not even remember Bush as a war-lovin', vowel-droppin', faux-folksy, ostentatiously religious Connecticut cowboy," explains Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner, herself a resident of the West Village in New York City.

"This is because Bush has, quietly and wholly, ingeniously refashioned himself into an Internet-friendly, cat-loving, ironic-hat-wearing painter-cum-Instagram savant. Lately, George W. Bush is a hipster icon, and the Internet, unofficial Fourth Estate of the youth of America, is totally buying it."

And the icons of Mr. Bush's transformation: his newfound identity as "outsider artist," a penchant for Trek mountain bikes, the odd pairings of his casual clothes, his comfort level with social media.

"Even those old enough to remember hating Bush are wise enough to recognize that they are no longer the deciders — as it were — of what's hip," Ms. Weiner concludes.

THE DAWN OF GEORGE P.

"I will bring my conservative values and my real-world experience with me."

Campaign motto of George P. Bush, who is grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, son of Jeb Bush and nephew of the aforementioned newly hip George W. The young Mr. Bush, 37, has taught in public schools, is a Naval Reserve officer, attorney, businessman, political action committee founder, husband and new father. He has declared his candidacy for Texas state land commissioner. He has won endorsements from five Lone Star State lawmakers so far, including Republican Reps. Kay Granger, Michael T. McCaul and Pete Olson.

SELFIE REGRET

"Why do people care about a selfie? This is a sad reflection of our society I never thought it was going to grow legs this long." — Agence France-Presse photographer Roberto Schmidt, on his photo of President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taking a group picture of themselves with a cellphone during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela last week. Mr. Schmidt made this statement to National Review.

The selfie image has become a phenomenon unto itself, alternately scorned, spoofed, mocked and lauded as a new brand of diplomacy in press and public.

THE MOP-UP CREW

Tough job, but someone has to do it. The American Political Science Association descends upon the U.S. Capitol on Monday to host a congressional briefing on the findings from their own task force report. The title: "Negotiating Agreement in Politics," this following performances by the nation's lawmakers that have included filibusters, budget battles and a government shutdown.

"We cannot help but brace ourselves for a partisan-laden beginning to the new year. We might reasonably ask why our elected officials don't come to agreement more effectively. This report clarifies how congressional leaders can successfully negotiate solutions to the nation's challenges," the 15,000-member group of political scientists proclaims.

On hand to do the talking: Jane Mansbridge, association president and a Harvard University political leadership professor, plus academics from Boston University, George Washington University and the University of Maryland.

POLL DU JOUR

55 percent of registered Republican voters say their party "will do better" in the 2014 midterm elections than in other recent elections; 33 percent of the Republicans think the party will "do the same," 5 percent say it will do worse.

43 percent of registered Democratic voters say their party will do better in 2014; 43 percent say the party will do the same next year, 9 percent say it will do worse.

53 percent of Republican voters are "very enthusiastic" about voting in 2014; 27 percent are "somewhat" enthusiastic, 17 percent are not enthusiastic.

49 percent of all registered U.S. voters are very enthusiastic about voting next year; 29 percent are somewhat enthusiastic, 19 percent are not enthusiastic.

47 percent of Democratic voters are very enthusiastic about voting in 2014; 33 percent are somewhat enthusiastic, 17 percent are not enthusiastic.

Source: A Pew Research Center/USA Today poll of 1,579 registered U.S. voters conducted Dec. 3-8 and released Friday.

Balderdash and ballyhoo to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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