- - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When Nancy Pelosi says Democrats will take back the House in November, it’s hard to tell whether she really believes it, imbibing whatever’s popular this week in San Francisco, or whether she’s just whistling past the congressional graveyard.

She said Sunday on CNN, with great assurance, that her party would regain the House majority it lost in 2010. “Of course,” she said, “we have great candidates.”

These “great” candidates have been running away from President Obama’s signature “accomplishment” so fast the speed cameras on the campaign trail can’t keep up. The interviewer pressed Mrs. Pelosi to consider the number of Democrats trying to avoid the obvious. “There may be a few,” the House minority leader grudgingly conceded, ” … but you know that’s the exception. Democrats embrace the Affordable Care Act. We’re very proud of it.”

They have an odd way of showing it, says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who urges her clients to treat the president’s health care takeover like an Ebola outbreak. “In terms of Obamacare, don’t defend it,” Ms. Lake, head of Lake Research Partners, told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last month. “Say it was flawed from the beginning, and we’re going to fix it.”

That was her interpretation of the George Washington University-Battleground Poll she conducted jointly with Ed Goeas, her Republican partner. The poll found that 53 percent of voters reject Obamacare and give Mr. Obama a failing grade as president.

“Mend it, don’t end it” is not likely to be a winning strategy. Democratic incumbents would have to admit they voted for something “flawed from the beginning.” Challengers without any baggage are in a similar pickle.

“We’re going to fix it” didn’t work in Florida for Alex Sink, the favored Democrat who lost a special congressional election despite promising to overhaul Obamacare. She was the “dream candidate” in a district Barack Obama carried in 2012, and she lost decisively.

Obamacare is likely to become a bigger, not smaller, albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates. Only once since 1938 has the party occupying the White House watched its generic-ballot numbers rise between the spring of a midterm election year and Election Day, as Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com blog points out.

In an analysis by the Manhattan Institute, those who buy their health insurance on the individual market have seen their premiums rise by a stunning average of 41 percent. Rate shock will grow worse over time, as more policies are canceled, and Mr. Obama is unhappy with the coverage options offered by the insurance companies. (Whether the customers are satisfied is irrelevant.)

Nov. 4 is shaping up as the day of reckoning for Obamacare. Even the greatest of candidates can’t persuade a struggling family that paying thousands more for less coverage is a good idea. We hope Mrs. Pelosi is comfortable in her cramped quarters. She’s not likely to be moving back to the luxury of the speaker’s office next year.

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