President Obama's fix to reverse millions of insurance cancellation notices may have eased slightly the pressure he faces, but Democrats at state level still face political trouble and fear what it may mean for the 2014 midterm elections.
One such Democrat is West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall. The 19-term veteran, a perennial target in a GOP-shifting state, was one of many Democrats who recited to constituents Obama's assurance that they could keep insurance coverage they liked under the 2010 health care overhaul.
This promise proved untrue and ignited an uproar that eventually forced Obama to reverse himself and on Thursday propose the fix that he claims will allow consumers to keep their plans. The debacle has sent many Democrats scrambling into political self-preservation mode ahead of the 2014 elections.
Rahall was among 39 Democrats who, despite an Obama veto threat, voted Friday for a Republican measure that would let insurers continue selling policies to individuals that fall short of the health care law's requirements. It was approved 261-157.
"I'm concerned about my integrity with voters who have returned me here for 38 years. They know me enough to know I wouldn't purposely mislead them," Rahall said this past week. "They have that confidence in me, and I want them to continue to have that confidence in me."
Republicans have been emboldened by Obama's reversal and the Democrats' scramble for cover, with GOP strategists digging through old statements and video clips in the hope of capturing Democrats offering the same promises that landed Obama in political trouble
An example of this is Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader – a Democrat who has criticized the president over the botched ObamaCare rollout. According to Politico, Schrader found himself the target of Republicans after it was revealed that language on the congressman’s website stating, “If you are insured and happy with your coverage, nothing changes,” had been deleted.
"There's nothing more damaging than when your word is devalued and people think they were misled," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee. "And especially damaging is when it actually affects you and your family. So in terms of degree of impact, this is off the Richter scale."
Top Democrats, who need to gain 17 seats to retake the House majority, brush off the suggestion, saying that next November's elections are still far away. They say by then, the health care law will be to their advantage because it will be working well.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said his party will focus the campaign on the economy, Democratic efforts to fix it and the GOP's preference for cutting Medicare and granting tax breaks to the wealthy.
The Republican emphasis on ObamaCare's problems "from a partisan perspective gins up the Republican base. But it alienates independent and moderate voters," said Israel, who said those voters "are more interested in solutions."
“For consumers who want to keep their health care plans, President Obama has offered a commonsense fix – and Democrats worked hard to make sure that pledge is supported,” Jesse Ferguson, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee deputy executive director, told Politico. “Republicans are now being unmasked as dishonest after they doubled down rhetorically on the importance of helping Americans keep their plan – but opposed President Obama’s fix because of their knee-jerk ideological obsession with opposing everything with President Obama’s name on it.”
Other Democrats are not so confident.
Martin Frost, a former Texas Democratic congressman who headed the House Democratic campaign committee, said many people still may lose their coverage because state officials have ample power over insurers. And he said the Obama administration cannot allow additional foul-ups.
"If I were still in Congress, I'd be concerned," Frost said.
Sensing an edge, the GOP plans to cut commercials featuring Democrats' promises that people could keep their health insurance.
America Rising, a GOP political action committee that compiles research on opposition candidates, is collecting video of Democrats' comments on the law. Some conservative groups are already running television spots, with Americans for Prosperity airing ads attacking Rahall and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., while defending Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., for opposing the law.
"It forces thousands to lose the plans they love and the doctors they know," says the 30-second spot running on television and radio in Rahall's district.
Though Democrats opposed the Republican measure 153-39, the vote was evidence of the pressure they feel over canceled policies.
On Thursday, Obama took the blame for the confusion, saying, "That's on me," not congressional Democrats. House Democratic leaders told reporters later that day that they had nothing to apologize for.
Even so, most House Democrats felt Obama's action was not enough and demanded a vote on a Democratic proposal.
"They want to be on record," said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. "Members are not judged by administrative fixes. Members are judged by their voting records."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.