When Karl Rove starts truth-squadding fellow Texas Republicans over the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, you know there are some tall tales floating around.
On Sunday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Chris Wallace of Fox News:
"You know what's interesting? Last week, the Wall Street Journal, for the first time in years, found Republicans are leading on healthcare. Americans trust Republicans more than Democrats on healthcare."
A few minutes later, Rove, a Fox analyst, called him out.
"I do want to correct one small thing that Sen. Cruz said," Rove said. "He said Republicans enjoy an advantage on healthcare in the Wall Street Journal poll this week. I wish it were true."
Americans, said Rove, "trust Democrats more on healthcare, 37 to 29. Now, the bad news for the Democrats is, this is a historic low number for them. But Republicans don't have an advantage on it."
Cruz's misrepresentation is not a "small thing." It's actually the very heart of the Republican strategy against the president's healthcare reform law: Scream loudly enough for long enough about how health coverage for millions of Americans will ruin the economy and maybe people will start to believe it. Whether it's true or not.
Tell young people, whose premiums will be necessary to fund the program, that they should pay fines rather than buy relatively inexpensive health insurance, and maybe they will start to believe that health insurance is a horrible thing the government is trying to cram down their throats. (Because it's so much more economical to be treated in an emergency room for a problem that could have been handled in a doctor's office. Reminds me of Sunday's Emmy awards, when Sofia Vergara and Jimmy Kimmel did a bit on how you should see a doctor if you get sick because, despite the old saying, laughter is not the best medicine: "Laughter kills innocent people," Vergara said. And health insurance is bad for you.)
So what is the "historic low number" of Americans who believe Democrats are better on healthcare?
In 2010, Rove explained, Democrats had a 10-point edge over Republicans on the question of which party is to be trusted when it comes to healthcare, 42% to 32%.
Over the past three years, as Republicans have sought relentlessly to defund or repeal the new healthcare law, the margin by which Democrats are seen as the better party when it comes to healthcare has shrunk by two points to an eight-point advantage (37% to 29%).
Now, to give Cruz the benefit of the doubt, he may have been mixing up two polls. On Sept. 13, a survey by the Pew Research Center and USA Today on the new health care law found that for the first time, Republicans had essentially pulled even with Democrats (40% to 39%) when respondents were asked, "Which party could do a better job of dealing with healthcare?"
"This is the best relative showing for Republicans since April 2011 on an issue that has traditionally been an advantage for the Democratic Party," said the Pew/USA Today analysis. "As recently as last December, Democrats were seen as the party better able to deal with healthcare by a 48%-38% margin."
That may give Republicans a thin strand of hope as, pushed hard by Tea Party conservatives, they contemplate whether forcing a government shutdown is just the thing the doctor ordered to fight the new healthcare law. But it's probably just an outlier. Even Rove didn't buy it. If he had, he wouldn't have sounded so wistful.