July 3, 2013— -- The Obama administration's decision to delay implementation of a key part of the Affordable Care Act has the law's Republican opponents positively giddy.
"GOP ad makers are busy at work cutting new Obamacare ads," noted Rick Wiley, former political director at the Republican National Committee.
The Obama administration announced yesterday that it would delay for one year the part of the health care law that requires employers with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance or pay a penalty.
The administration cited a desire to respond to the concerns of small business and give them more time to comply. But the provision has been the subject of complaints by business owners and threats that employers would either cut their full-time workforce to avoid the mandate or increase the number of part-time employees who won't be guaranteed insurance under the new law.
On the one hand, the administration avoids a series of politically painful stories about negative, unintended consequences of the provision, which they admit is not quite ready for primetime.
Republicans believe, however, that even by pushing the issue into 2015, the Obama administration makes implementation of this part of the law a problem for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.
"All the president has done here is, he's now guaranteed that it's going to be a huge issue in the 2016 race," said Matt Mackiowiak, a Republican strategist with Potomac Strategy Group. "I'm not sure it'll be a gift to Hillary or Biden or whoever the nominee is."
"There's going to be a huge amount of turbulence as that provision kicks in and it's going to create a lot of problems for Dems," he added.
But there is a silver lining: Vulnerable Democrats running for re-election in 2014 can probably breathe a (brief) sigh of relief.
"I think it's probably helpful politically," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "And I think that because the economy is just starting to recover, it prevents the argument that Obamacare hurts the economy and hurts small business. It's now taken it completely off the table."
But at the same time, the delay has given opponents of the bill more reason to suggest that the law is fundamentally flawed.
"It might be too clever by half, because it's an admission that there are serious, serious problems with the bill and how it's impacting both business and individuals," said Mackiowiak. "This is a huge motivator for the right."
"It motivates the entire base to continue on this path to defund or repeal the entire bill," he added.
Democrats have argued that as parts of the bill become implemented, it will become more popular.
They cite benefits like coverage for young adults under the age of 26 on their parents' plans and coverage of birth control as preventative care.
But so far, there has been no discernible surge of support for the bill. And this is just one more provision that will take longer to go into effect.
In the meantime, opponents of the bill are heartened.
"This is a huge blow to the fallacy of the White House that 'Obamacare' was something that was universally welcomed and easy to implement," Wiley said. "They are scrambling right now and they don't know what to do."
"This is just the first shoe to drop," he added.