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Obamacare or Immigration Reform: What Is The Bigger Issue in 2014?

by Debbie Sharnak, published

On FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s website, he recently predicted that the GOP will win the U.S. Senate, and retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Due to President Obama’s lagging popularity and the GOP’s more viable candidates, Silver’s research forecasts that Republicans are favored to win at least 6 seats in the Senate alone.

However, what will be the major issues in these campaigns?

Following the 2012 election, many politicians believed immigration reform would finally pass through Congress. Latinos, who made up 10 percent of the electorate, voted for Obama over his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, by a 44-point margin. Many Republicans, therefore, began to talk about reforming their positions on immigration in order to attract the growing constituency.

This talk, however, proved short-lived. Although the Senate was able to pass reform legislation, the bill stalled in the House. Led by a group of conservative Republicans who opposed the measure, the House has failed to vote on any proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, and advocates hold little hope that any movement will occur on the issue for the rest of 2014.

As an election issue though, immigration is sure to be a popular topic, particularly in heavily Latino districts. For example, in Colorado’s 6th district, Republican Mike Coffman is struggling in his race against democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. Coffman was a former opponent of immigration reform, but redistricting changed the composition of his constituency and he now has a much greater Latino population.

The race is one of the closest, and most expensive, in the country.

In other districts, however, Obamacare continues to be a major issue. Mitch McConnell predicted as early as May 2013 that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be the biggest issue of the midterm election, largely because his party intended to use it as a major sticking point in their campaigns.

The disastrous rollout gravely hurt the Democrats signature legislative achievement. However, public opinion is shifting and an attack strategy has its own perils. Millions are starting to see benefits from the Affordable Care Act for the first time.

According to a Kaiser Health tracking poll, the public’s general opinion of the ACA moved in a positive direction in March, and over half of all Americans say they are tired of hearing the national debate over the law and want the country to focus on other issues.

Despite this concern, it appears Republicans will continue to recruit their base voters using the ACA. Already in Arkansas, for example, Republican Tom Cotton, who is trying to unseat Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, is attacking Pryor’s support of the health care program.

Since immigration has largely been tabled until after the election, it will likely not make the biggest waves in the midterm, except in few key districts with particularly high populations of Latino voters. Across the country, though, Obamacare will likely be a major sticking point.

Just in the past 3 weeks, Republicans have launched 32 anti-Obamacare ads since the open enrollment window closed. While many of these ads have stemmed from GOP candidates attempting to “out-conservative” their rivals for their party’s nomination, it appears there is no end in sight for the ad deluge, and will only continue through November.

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