The only thing I'd stress a bit more than Nyhan does is a relatively minor, but factual, point. Bai claims that Barack Obama ran a content-free campaign focused on a vague slogan of "hope" and "change." Look, I understand that Republicans want to spin things that way, and I certainly understand that most of the inattentive public doesn't pay much attention to the campaign and probably heard little more than "hope" and "change." But in fact, Obama had lots and lots of very specific campaign proposals -- health care most certainly included -- and he did, in fact, campaign on those proposals. In fact, it's hard to see how anyone paying even minimal attention to the campaign could believe that
The stimulus bill and the health care law may or may not have been good policy, but the sheer scope and cost of those agenda items seemed to jolt a lot of the independent voters who had conditionally supported Mr. Obama. Having failed to establish a rationale for such expansive measures during the campaign, Democrats were easily caricatured by their adversaries as a bunch of 1970s liberals who would spend money wherever they could.Stimulus? Sure, although as always don't forget that a large chunk of that consisted of the tax cuts that Obama certainly campaigned on. But health care? Nonsense. The "easily caricatured" conclusion has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that happened in the campaign. And, by the way: all bill are easily caricatured. (One might argue, although I wouldn't, that Bill Clinton spent more time talking about health care in 1992 did than Barack Obama in 2008 -- did that prevent his plan from being "easily caricatured"?).
Really, just an awful use of extremely valuable NYT space. Go read Nyhan for the rest of it.