Republicans Hope Obamacare Glitches Shape 2014 Senate Races

Vulnerable Democrats need Obamacare glitches fixed to be able to fight in 2014.

A message on a computer indicates that there are too many visitors on the Affordable Care Act site to continue, on Oct, 8, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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As of last week, just seven people had successfully enrolled in Alaska's health care marketplace.

Like many programs across the country, the state's web tool has been inundated with technical malfunctions. Alaska Public Media, reported many Alaska residents were waiting up to three hours to sign up.

Of the uninsured Alaskans, 72 percent would qualify for subsidies under the new marketplace system, but many have been deterred.

It's frustrating for area residents who were promised a seamless enrollment experience when the marketplace opened on Oct. 1, but for Democratic senators like Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who are facing reelection in conservative states, Republicans are hoping it is a major blow.

Since his initial vote in support of the Affordable Care Act, Begich has proposed fixes to the lawand has been clear the landmark health care legislation is far from perfect, but Begich has defended his 'yes' vote for three years, promising voters that the controversial health care law would be well worth the wait.

"You know, they'll work out the glitches," Begich told Alaska Public Media. "It is technology and they'll figure it out and at the end of the day, Alaskans will have 34 insurance programs to choose from."

Begich is just one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats including Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., up for election in 2014 whose reelection could hinge on whether the Obama Administration can rebuild public trust around the health care rollout and gin up enough public interest to make the Affordable Care Act a marketable success. Monday, Obama made a Rose Garden appearance to say no one was more upset than he with reports of the exchanges' malfunctions.

[READ: For Obama, a Frustrating Health Care Rollout]

"No one is madder than me that this is not working, which means it is going to get fixed," Obama promised.

But Republicans are not about to let the glitches go unnoticed. Fresh off a bitter fight and government shutdown over Obamacare that left Republicans with sinking poll numbers, the GOP is looking to refocus the conversation. They want an 'I told you so' moment and many see the 2014 elections as a perfect place to start.

"Barack Obama and vulnerable Democrats like Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor and Mark Begich will try to distance themselves from their own unpopular law, but the truth is that Obamacare's problems run far deeper than an IT specialist can handle," says Brad Dayspring, the spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Democratic Senators who point fingers at a bad website while defending ObamaCare would be like a restaurant owner telling a patron, "Ignore the rats in the kitchen, try the steak, trust us."

Gail Wilensky, an economist and health care expert who directed the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the early 1990s, says that Democrats could be increasingly vulnerable in their 2014 reelections, but only if the computer glitches persist well into the winter.

"It is pretty obvious that it is far wackier and bumpier than anyone anticipated," says Wilensky. "This is not going to help vulnerable Democrats, but it is early. Let's wait to see where we are in December."

Wilensky says that while Republicans have been quick to pounce on Democrats who have fought for health care, she notes the GOP civil war between the tea party and establishment Republicans could distract the GOP from really taking advantage of the voters' frustrations with the health care law.

"It depends who the Democrats run against," Wilensky says. "Lately Republicans seem to have an unfortunate habit of finding candidates who take positions that are far too extreme for the constituency they represent. We would have said Claire McCaskill was so vulnerable. And low and behold you put up a candidate who thinks it is useful to talk about legitimate rape."

Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says the Republicans are just trying to change the subject from their inner party squabbling.