Today's Power Play: Health Care Beat Democrats, But Poses Risks for GOP Too

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Democrats suffered their worst congressional losses in three generations because of the president's national health care law, but Republicans could fall victim to Obamacare too.

The president and the soon-to-be former House speaker both said the 60+ House losses were the result of "the economy."

Well, yes. But if you asked a sea captain what sank his boat, he could say "the water."

But the iceberg that sank the Democratic House majority was health care. Perhaps they could have survived passing the legislation during better economic times, but passing an unpopular plan at a moment when the electorate is screaming for action on the economy was a political kamikaze mission.

When Fox News' Mike Emanuel pointed out to Obama Wednesday that almost half of respondents in a national exit poll said they favored repealing his plan, Obama shot back that that also meant that half "thought we did the right thing."

Not so. Saying you oppose repeal and saying you support something are two separate things. Obama was likely closer to the truth when he said Americans did not want to see the new Republican House majority "re-litigating" the past two years.

The Republican wave was produced by conservative voters angry over the president's agenda and moderates who thought his policies were overambitious and distracting at a moment in which the country could ill afford either.

Republicans are itching to tackle the president's national health care law, but some in the party are worried that the effort to repeal Obamacare could be a powerful distraction for the sake of what would be, at best, a symbolic victory.

While Republicans will mostly avoid leadership fights, some conflicts, like the battle between Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas to replace Rep Mike Pence of Indiana as chairman of the House Republican Caucus, may encourage intemperate promises about what is possible on health care in the next two years.

Several aides say that with so many new members who campaigned against the Democratic plan, it will be hard to resist calls for repeal.

"Nobody is saying that we shouldn't try to repeal it or that the House won't pass a bill for repeal," said one leadership aide. "We're just saying that we should be talking more about jobs right now."

Since no major bill will advance beyond the Senate or the president's veto and crabby voters are watching closely, Republicans have to be careful to avoid using their moment of political reintroduction to push a boulder up Mt. Obamacare all year.

With votes on taxes and increasing the federal debt ceiling just ahead, there will be plenty of chances for the GOP to stand tough.

Thanks to Today's Power Play Crew: Kimberly Schwandt, Gretchen Gailey and Whitney Ksiazek

The Day in Quotes

"Now, I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night. You know, I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons."

-- President Obama addressing reporters about his party's historic midterm defeat.

"I might serve a Slurpee. They're delicious drinks."

-- President Obama considering what refreshments he might serve to Republicans when they come to the White House for a post-election confab."I think the president is my new best friend, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to him. But really the question is the policy. If he takes the right message out of yesterday's election, and clearly this was a report card for the President and Congress. They got an F."

-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on "Special Report with Bret Baier."

"He's our Cuban Barack Obama. He gives us hope."

-- Alex Lacayo, a volunteer for Florida Senator Elect Marco Rubio, as quoted by the New York Times.

"When I get time for that, I'll call you and I'll let you know how it feels. Because first of all I haven't had a moment alone to even think about myself. And second of all, it's a luxury at this time and that I can't afford."

-- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when asked by ABC's Diane Sawyer whether her feelings were hurt by election attacks against her.

"If Republicans think we're going to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid and give tax cuts to those making a million dollars a year, we will wrap that around their necks and beat the hell out of them in 2012."

-- Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) to Politico.

"Republicans must not delude themselves: The voters didn't throw out the Democrats because they are enraptured with the GOP."-- Karl Rove writing in the Wall Street Journal

"There were plenty of pundits, politicians and insiders that said this victory was impossible. But the people of Florida knew exactly what they wanted."-- Republican Rick Scott declaring victory in the Sunshine State's narrow gubernatorial contest between him and Democrat Alex Sink."Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office. But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things."

-- Advance remarks of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's speech at the Heritage Foundation today.

"My guess is yes - she's going to run for president. She sounds to me like somebody who's running for president."

-- Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on CNN talking about Sarah Palin.

Still Counting in Washington and Alaska With a third of the vote still to be counted, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) led Republican challenger Dino Rossi by two points. The count continues today, and Murray supporters are optimistic because many of the remaining ballots are from Seattle's King County.

In Alaska, Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller is behind "write in" by 13,500 votes -- about 7 percent of the total. Democrat Scott McAdams has already conceded, but we still don't know exactly how many voters wrote in Sen. Lisa Murkowski's name and how many of the write ins will demonstrate clear voter intent.

The write-in count will begin on Wednesday.

And Now, A Word From Charles

"[President Obama] is saying exactly what he said for the last few weeks on the campaign trail. He says people are up upset because while there has been improvement, it hasn't been rapid enough. And they're upset. That is what he said in August, September and October.

He gets the incredible landslide against him in the policies and he believes it's the same idea that the progress isn't rapid enough. He just had a repudiation of two years of his agenda and ideology, and he pretends as if nothing has happened.

And he says one of the messages he gets, and it's all about what does he get, is that people want him to work with Republicans on things like natural gas and electric cars. Is that why he lost 19 state houses, because he hadn't had enough discussion on electric cars and natural gas with Mitch McConnell? I think not."

-- Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier"