In my view, the Republicans have had a very weak hand to play on health care (not enough good ideas!), but over the last week they have played it brilliantly (which is not the same thing as having good policies). Those House members who need to say “I voted to repeal Obamacare” can now do so. The Republicans also have an option on proceeding further with reform, with everyone knowing the Senate will write its own bill. The defects of what they voted for are not so significant for this reason, and the cavalier attitude of many House Republicans toward the contents of the bill makes perfect sense.
At the same time, the Republicans have the option of letting the bill die in the Senate, where it is far easier to blame the Democrats for inaction — how many American swing voters understand the fine points of the Byrd rule and filibuster anyway? If you are what I call a “fulminating Democrat,” you are actually playing into Republican hands on this one (it would have been better to have spent the week saying abortion should be legal but rare, and talking about white people).
The big victory celebration pleased Trump, but more importantly all Republicans involved learned there is a way forward on many other issues: let Congress lead the way and pull Trump out of the bully role. That lesson won’t soon be forgotten. And from Trump’s point of view, he hasn’t given up the option of later working with the Democrats to pass a more centrist version of health care reform.
I don’t see the broader American public as so impressed with the Democrats’ arguments against the bill, mostly because they are not paying attention. It doesn’t feel like it has the urgency of when Obamacare was passed, and in fact it doesn’t. No one succeeded in showing it did, because it didn’t.
I still see the Republican House majority as extremely fragile, but on this one I believe the Democrats got pwned.