NOTHSTINE: Roy Coopers missed opportunity on Obamacare

Gerry Broome—AP
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper makes a comment while participating in a live televised debate with North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park

If Roy Cooper ends up losing to Gov. Pat McCrory, his inability to rise above partisan talking points on Obamacare might prove to be a critical moment in the campaign. Roy Cooper is becoming more isolated in his Obamacare support as more Democrats flee from the unpopular legislation.Perhaps more mysteriously, during the Oct. 11 gubernatorial debate, Cooper pretended that the problems with Obamacare are a local problem. He blamed McCrory for its failure in North Carolina. McCrory’s reaction, like I suspect most voters, was one of incredulity.Less than 24 hours after their debate, Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) the governor of one of America’s most liberal states, said the “Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable.” Minnesota’s insurance commissioner, appointed by Dayton, called the rising rates “unfair” and “a real emergency situation” for families. For many, rates there could rise as much as 67 percent.Former president Bill Clinton recently called Obamacare “the craziest thing in the world” and Hillary Clinton has stated she can at least fix Obama’s crowning legislative achievement.With so many Democrat leaders abandoning Obamacare, why does Roy Cooper continue to cling to a mistake? Virtually every serious policy expert has said the plan is unsustainable if not an outright failure.More importantly for Cooper, he missed an opportunity during the debate to appeal to independents on health care. That fact that he reflexively blamed McCrory instead of positioning himself as a leader and a centrist on this policy is disconcerting. Only the most blinded partisan voters could view Obamacare as a McCrory problem and not a national problem.Cooper’s own campaign website is short of health care policy solutions outside of Medicaid expansion, another bureaucratic system that has its own sustainability and affordability issues. This, plus the entire Tuesday debate exchange on Obamacare points to Cooper’s level of remoteness from the electorate. It positions him as a candidate who may not understand just how much families are struggling to pay their health care premiums.McCrory was right to challenge Cooper to forego his state-run insurance plan for Obamacare, if he indeed has faith in the program. A rhetorical device to be sure, but Cooper again had no concrete response to broader solutions for health care outside of more government.Even when McCrory told him it is “okay to admit it’s a failure,” Cooper demurred. Perhaps because the attorney general refused to join the 26 states that challenged the constitutionally of Obamacare, Cooper feels like he has to double down with his support. But part of governing means having some flexibility on policies that no longer work for Americans. Why all the doubling down? Just as McCrory is not to blame for Obamacare, neither is Cooper.Most statewide Democrats in the South have been successful by campaigning as centrists, not blind defenders of statism. The simple reason that’s effective is because that’s where most of the electorate resides. Health care will not be fixed through more bureaucracy and government control. Those who support free market reforms, which are certainly a superior alternative, must admit too, that markets can’t solve every single aspect of access, especially pertaining to high-risk, pre-existing conditions.Health care is an essential issue for most voters for the simple fact health is literally one of the most important aspects of life. While the McCrory-Cooper debate had none of the theatrics of a Trump-Clinton debate, voters learned a lot about policy — specifically Cooper’s stubborn commitment to a failed government program.