WASHINGTON -- The long legislative war over Obamacare now moves to larger and more contentious political battlegrounds in the House and Senate midterm elections and the federal courts.
Obamacare squeaked through the Democratic House on bare-knuckled power politics -- despite recent polls showing 54 percent of Americans are opposed to it -- and justified fears that its true costs will send federal spending, borrowing and taxes to unprecedented levels.
But the war against the most sweeping government power grab in U.S. history isn't over; it's just become wider and, politically, more lethal -- for Democrats. Let's take these one at a time.
Heading into the final stages of the health care battle, Democrats were facing losses in November of 20 to 30 seats in the House, and perhaps four to five seats in the Senate, according to most election forecasters.
Their potential losses mushroomed after the House vote when nearly a dozen Democrats who had voted against Obamacare last year switched to the yes column Sunday under intense pressure from the White House and their party's leadership.
Many of the switchers are "freshmen" facing particularly tough reelection prospects in conservative-leaning districts, and at least 20 who voted for it are from districts Obama lost in 2008. Switchers like Reps. Betsy Markey of Colorado and Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, who went from no to yes, are in Republican-leaning districts that voted for John McCain in 2008 and where voter anger with Obamacare is strong.
Election handicappers and pollsters say Sunday's vote has improved GOP prospects for gains in November, possibly as many as 30 seats in the House, and maybe even six to seven pickups in the Senate. Democratic Senate seats are in jeopardy in Delaware, Connecticut, Nevada, Illinois, Colorado, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and North Dakota.
A big reason behind this wave is that voter intensity is in favor of the GOP. An NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll shows Republicans with a double-digit lead over Democrats when voters were asked which party they'll support in their congressional districts.
"Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership have dug themselves into a deep and dangerous hole, and the only question right now seems to be the severity of the drubbing," elections forecaster Stuart Rothenberg writes in The Rothenberg Political Report this week.
Meantime, another front in the war on Obamacare has opened among the states and in the federal courts where an armada of lawsuits are about to be filed to block key provisions in the new health care law.
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