Speaking to House of Representatives Democrats during their
three-day retreat, Obama cited an increase in the number of people
signing up for insurance coverage under Obamacare as evidence that
the law's implementation was going more smoothly after a troubled
Republicans, who have denounced Obamacare as an unpopular disaster,
have put the issue at the center of their strategy for November's
But Obama has touted the administration's progress in ironing out
the glitches. At the retreat, he predicted that the 2010 Affordable
Care Act will be seen by Americans in five to 10 years as "a
"We now have well over 3.5 million people who have signed up and are
getting insurance through the marketplaces for the first time,"
All 435 House seats along with 36 of the 100 Senate seats are up for
grabs in the elections.
Republicans are expected to retain the House, which they now control
232-200 with three vacancies. They hope the Obamacare issue will
help them seize control of the Senate, which Democrats hold 55-45.
The troubles with Obama's healthcare law have weighed on the
president's popularity. His approval rating now stands at 43
percent, and Democrats worry that Americans' concerns about the
health law could cost them support in their districts.
Traditionally, presidents have seen their party lose seats in
congressional elections during their second terms, largely due to
voter fatigue with incumbents.
Since 1946, when a president's approval rating was below 50 percent
in such elections, his party has lost on average 36 House seats,
according to the Gallup polling firm. When it is above 50 percent,
they lose on average 14 seats, Gallup said.
The healthcare issue was an important topic at the Democratic
gathering at a waterfront resort. Before Obama spoke, the Democrats
heard during a closed session from Ari Goldmann, a 32-year-old
independent contractor and waiter who lives in Washington.
Democratic aide said Goldmann told the lawmakers he was "beyond
thrilled" when he was able to get health coverage under Obamacare
after his insurance company told him it was canceling his plan.
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Democrats hope to circulate more such stories in the months ahead as
they scramble to win public approval of Obamacare and boost their
At a closed-door portion of his meeting with Democrats, another
party aide said Obama told the gathering that "underlying policies
in the (healthcare) program are working, but of course there are
glitches. We are working through these things."
Obama also discussed his legislative agenda for this year, including
a push to raise the minimum wage and renew expired jobless benefits
for nearly 2 million Americans.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who chairs the
Democratic National Committee, underscored her party's support of
the president's efforts.
She declined to say, however, if it will be enough for Democrats to
somehow win back the House.
"We are not making predictions," Wasserman Schultz said. "We are
focused on making sure that when it comes to giving people
opportunities to climb the ladders of the middle class, that voters
understand that Democrats have their backs."
Representative Joseph Crowley of New York made reference to the
snowstorm in the area when he introduced Obama at Friday's
gathering. Crowley said it had been a "marvelous two days despite
the weather and the odds against us."
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan;
by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; editing by Caren Bohan and
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