President Obama is likely to win the battle for public opinion over the status of the Affordable Care Act and over who is to blame both for a government shutdown if one occurs and for a possible default on federal financial obligations.
The reason is that the president has far more access to the news media, to the Internet and to the country than his GOP adversaries. The Republicans aren't united in their message and lack a single leader who can compete with the president for national attention.
The latest poll by CNBC finds that 44 percent of Americans oppose defunding the Affordable Care Act, Obama's health care law, and only 38 percent support defunding it. If defunding the health care law would mean shutting down the government or a default on government obligations, 59 percent would oppose defunding and 19 percent would support it.
Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the government into mid-December but to deny funding for Obama's health care law. The president and Senate Democratic leaders say this measure is a non-starter and they insist that the health care law be funded.
The Senate is likely to pass a bill to fund the government, including Obamacare, and send it to the House in the next week. This would precipitate a confrontation that could result in a government shutdown and a default on some government obligations.
As the public relations battle intensifies, Obama has shown that he can dominate news coverage more easily than the many voices that constitute the GOP congressional leadership. Obama says the Republicans are too ideological and too inflexible, and they are playing politics with the economic recovery. The Republicans say the health care law is bad legislation that would hurt the economy and give government too much power over the health care system.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.