1. Patrick Ruffini says alot of the stuff I've been trying to say only better. He is right to mention all the honorable conservative policy analysts who have been trying to develop free market-oriented health care policies. He is also right that the failure of the right to sell the public on those policies (or even make the average citizen aware that such policies exist) gave liberals the initiative, and made it much easier for liberals to pass a government takeover. My one reservation is that a free market-oriented approach that gets traction won't be a "Republican" approach. To the extent that a free market-oriented approach will tend to first appeal to conservative Americans, and to the extent that those Americans are concentrated in the Republican party, free market-oriented health care will tend to win most of its earliest and most fervent converts among Republican voters and leaders. But if supporters of free market-oriented health care start winning the argument (HUGE if), converts from the Democrats will be found for both reasons of principle and calculation. Some of that happened in the debates over tax cuts and welfare reform. Its not for nothing that one of the best recent articles in favor of moving in the direction of free market-oriented health care came from a Democrat writing in a liberal-leaning general interest magazine.
2. Ross Douthat is wasting his sympathy on Stupak, but he otherwise makes some good points. Stupak is a discredit to every category with which he is associated - to include Democrats, politicians and carbon based life forms. But Douthat is right that there is a pro-life constituency out there that is uncomfortable with the liberal position on abortion, but also uncomfortable with much conservative rhetoric they are hearing on economic issues. A well thought out, well articulated, pro-family economic agenda might go a long way to winning over many voters that are not impressed by what they hear at the Tea Parties.
3. John Cornyn demonstrates some of the problems inherent with trying to repeal Obamacare without having a better alternative in sight. There are parts of Obamacare that poll well and some that poll really badly. The problem will be in trying to cherry pick what gets repealed based on what will help Republicans make short term gains in November. The problem is that the popular stuff (like guaranteed issue) and unpopular stuff (like the mandates, tax hikes, and Medicare cuts) tend to go together. As Douthat points out, getting rid of the unpopular stuff that pays for the popular stuff makes Obamacare worse rather than better. The regulations like guaranteed issue would make premiums higher (indeed would make health insurance a joke), and getting rid of the tax increases and Medicare cuts would balloon the deficit by hundreds of billions more dollars. The only responsible way to beat the combination of popular and unpopular elements of our new Obamacare system will be to convince the public that there is a better alternative on offer.