By Nina Easton, senior editor
FORTUNE -- The 2014 mid-term elections are looming, and swing-state Democrats are nervous. Meanwhile, the White House is scrambling to minimize its Obamacare-inflicted hardships on Americans through a growing list of exemptions and delays. Will it be enough to keep the Senate in Democratic hands?
"Hardship" was precisely the word Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius invoked late last week in assuring six Democratic senators that -- no -- she wouldn't punish those 6 million Americans who have lost their insurance because of Obamacare. The tax penalty won't apply if they go without insurance or buy stripped-down catastrophic plans.
This was the latest in a string of moves to ease the pain of reengineering one-sixth of the nation's economy. With the calamitous website rollout, deadlines have been eased and insurance companies "strongly" encouraged to accept late payments. And months before Healthcare.gov became fodder for comedians and commentators alike, the White House had granted a one-year delay in the employer mandate -- after business leaders offered up their own hardship claims.
Here's why the White House's desperate attempts to stem the political bleed may not be enough to hold onto the Senate:
And that wasn't the only ham-handed attempt to boost enrollment. This week the Log Cabin Republicans denounced as offensive a lascivious ad targeting the gay community that featured men prancing around with each other in their underwear.
To truly appreciate the uneasiness among Senate Democrats, it pays to listen to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, among the most outspoken Democrats calling for a delay in the health care law. Manchin worried out loud on CNN's State of the Union last Sunday that the whole health care law could be headed for a "complete meltdown" if "it's so much more expensive than what we anticipated, and if the coverage is not as good as what we've had."
And the political victims? His Democratic colleagues up for re-election -- and Obama's control of the U.S. Senate.
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