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Paul Ryan's favorability craters on the heels of the healthcare fiasco
Failure to pass, or failure to craft a decent law?
Last month's healthcare fiasco was, without question, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's baby. He fought for it, promoted it, inexplicably rushed it to the floor, did everything he could to corral reluctant legislators. Heck, there are reports that he was down on his knees begging congressmen to vote for it. It didn't work. In the end, all he could do was looked on as it collapsed.
Now, according to Gallup, his favorability numbers have done the same.
Virtually every news outlet is blaming the decline on the bill's failure to pass. They're all wrong, and we'll get to why they're wrong in a moment. First, the data:
Amid the collapse of the Affordable Care Act repeal in the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan's image is taking a hit -- 39% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the House speaker, down nine percentage points from November. Ryan's unfavorable rating has increased 12 points, and his image is more negative than positive for the first time since Gallup first asked about him in 2012.
By any measure, that's a pretty severe drop - especially for a guy who has always enjoyed strong polling.
As I said before, most of the media is blaming the fall on his bill's failure to pass. I disagree. I submit that the damage is due to the quality of the bill he put forward, the ridiculous push to get a vote, and the absurd way he handled the post-vote optics.
Let's take a walk down memory lane.
1. Ryan's bill was despised by most conservatives, myself included. The GOP had 7 years to craft workable legislation, but instead offered something that failed to solve the problems inherent in ObamaCare, pretended to eliminate mandates while in reality only shifting them, and did little or nothing to bring us to a free market solution. Many called it ObamaCare-lite and those pushing for it appeared to be squandering the mandate they received in 2016. In short, it was a mess from day one.
2. Despite the inarguable fact that its passage was in extreme doubt, Ryan pushed ahead with a vote. You can make the case that was partly President Trump's doing but, in the end, it was Ryan's call. He brought a massively important bill to the floor while he was on his knees begging for votes. That's simply insane. Why did he self-impose the time crunch? No one really knows. In a situation where it was more important to do things right than to do them quickly, he chose to go with "quickly."
3. After the bill failed, he offered a bizarre message about walking away from the ACA repeal. Then he seemed to suggest they'd come back and write some new, more palatable, legislation. Then he said the bill might not be dead after all, and then things went quiet. Where do we stand now? Again, no one knows. The optics were bad, the message was mixed, and the chaos was obvious.
That's why Ryan's numbers took a nosedive. The fact that the bill failed to pass is almost incidental to the disastrous way the process was handled.
Republicans were handed the keys to the car and they managed to wrap it around a telephone pole - not once, but three times - in the span of a few short weeks.
Fair or unfair, Ryan was the face of the wreck, so Ryan is paying the price.