This Poll Challenges the GOP’s Unified Theory of Obamacare Unpopularity

Ed Gillespie has something to think about.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The next presidential election is aeons away. The 2014 midterms are only 10 and a half months away. As long as we’re going to obsess over 2016 polls, we should ruminate about numbers like this, from Virginia’s Roanoke poll. A survey that usually ends up with huge undecided numbers, and frequently suggests good news for Republicans, finds nothing good for new U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie.

The first poll out after GOP heavy hitter Ed Gillespie formally announced he will challenge Sen Mark Warner’s bid for re-election gives Warner a nearly 30 percentage point lead.

The Roanoke College poll of 553 registered votes reported 50 percent saying they’d vote for Warner against 21 percent for Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The best thing you can say for Gillespie is that Warner’s approval rating—47 percent—is unusually low for him, and down from 2013. Gillespie’s entire theory is that Obamacare will continute to cut into support for Democrats, and that given enough money he can be there to win over independents once they’ve abandoned Warner. Not impossible!

The problem is deeper in the poll:

With regard to Medicaid expansion, one-third (33%) said the program should be expanded in Virginia only when it is reformed to be more efficient. Slightly fewer (30%) said it should be expanded now, and one in four (26%) said it should not be expanded at all.

That’s not in line with the current Republican catechism. Ken Cuccinelli closed out the 2013 gubernatorial race by calling Medicaid expansion “Obamacare expansion” (mostly true) and promising to block it. The fact that he lost by 2.5 points was proof, to the anti-Obamacare-inclined, that any argument against the law would win over voters. Not true, says Roanoke. Gov. McAuliffe starts the year by arguing for the Medicaid expansion with recalictrant Republican legislators; Gillespie will get asked, surely, whether he wants the state to expand.