- - Tuesday, November 19, 2013

There’s no do-over of elections. However fervently many Americans might want to turn back the clock to replace Barack Obama with Mitt Romney, they can’t. Higher taxes, more spending and Obamacare are with us until Jan. 20, 2017. According to a new ABC News poll, most Americans think Mr. Obama is not a strong leader, that he doesn’t understand the problems of Americans, that he’s neither honest nor trustworthy, and he’s a terrible manager. Mr. Romney, the pollsters found, would defeat the president in an election today. What a difference Obamacare makes.

The president entered office with a 65 percent job-approval rating, his hands clutching a Nobel Prize that he earned merely by celebrity. He reversed his fortunes on one issue, the spectacular failure of his signature legislative achievement.

George W. Bush is gone to Texas, so the president can’t blame him for this one, try as he might. Republicans shut down the government to buy just a few months’ delay for Obamacare, over the feverish opposition of the Democrats. Seventy-one percent of Americans in the new poll now agree with Republicans that the individual Obamacare mandate should be postponed; 2 out of 3 Americans think it should be abolished entirely. Democrats crushed Republicans in October, and now they wish they had joined Republicans to wash their hands of Mr. Obama’s dreadful mistake.

The basic idea behind Mr. Obama’s scheme is that government can better handle the complexities of medical care than the market can. Government scientists, technocrats and regulators think they have the collective brainpower to fairly manage a complicated, interconnected health care system and do it for less than businessmen could.

The planners got everything they wanted. They got to write the law without a single Republican looking over their shoulders. They had three years to do it with an essentially unlimited budget. The might of the entire federal government was called in to build HealthCare.gov. With all that, the Obamacare rollout was an epic failure of big government that was worthy of the old Soviet Union.

In testimony before a House committee last week, top technology advisers to the president and the Department of Health and Human Services refused to accept responsibility for the online fiasco. None of the bureaucrats would even concede that the rollout was a disaster. “Success has many fathers,” observed Rep. Darrell E. Issa of California, the Republican committee chairman, “quite a few mothers, plenty of relatives, but failure is an orphan. You’re going to find an orphan here.”

Mr. Obama says he regrets perfectly good health insurance plans were taken away from some Americans, but he doesn’t regret it enough to do the right thing about it. “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this position, based on assurances they got from me.” Nevertheless, he said he would veto the legislation passed by the House guaranteeing that people could keep their health plans as he had promised. The White House said enabling consumers to keep their existing plans “rolls back the progress” made in enacting the health care law.

The new ABC poll shows candidates opposing Obamacare enjoy a 16 percent advantage over their opponents. Generic surveys don’t always say how incumbents will perform on Election Day, but red-state Democrats are nevertheless popping a sweat already and the elections are a year away. In September, Sen. Kay R. Hagan of North Carolina was ahead of Greg Brannon, a Republican physician, with a 16-point lead. Now she’s trailing by a point.

Obamacare won’t be fully implemented before next year. The American people have admitted their mistake. The Democrats — though not including the president — have time to avoid severe consequences if they admit theirs, and act accordingly.