Sunday, March 14, 2010

GOP's 2010 election strategy: repeal healthcare reform

As if liberals need more motivation to push health- care reform, Rush Limbaugh, in a profoundly patriotic move, said last week he'll be "leaving the country" if health care passes. VOTE YES ON REFORM. SEND RUSH PACKING! It's a bumper sticker with the virtue of no reference to "cost curves" or pre-existing conditions.

Progressives are so dispirited—and, like the rest of the country, so sick of talking about sick people—that they can't wrap their heads around the reality that this is the Big One, the Super Bowl, for all the marbles. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner can scowl, but Republicans are now nearly irrelevant to the process. The only real question is if Democrats are in the mood to slit their own throats. The bill is complex, but the politics are simple: if health care doesn't pass this spring, Obama's domestic presidency is finished. The Democratic Party will be, to borrow a phrase from Nixon, a "helpless, pitiful giant." By contrast, if the bill gets signed, Republicans are setting themselves up for a "repeal the bill" campaign that will likely backfire in November's midterm elections. That's eight months away, but if the bill passes I'd bet on the GOP winning only a few new seats.

This is Politics 101, a class that many Democrats apparently flunked. The House Democrats who voted for the bill at the end of 2009 have no choice but to vote for it again if they have any clue as to what's in their political self-interest; the he-was-for-it-before-he-was-against-it ads write themselves. And the more conservative Blue Dog Democrats who voted against it need to understand that no matter how toxic health care is in their districts right now, things will be a lot worse if they have to run under the banner of a failed president. Voters won't reward them for being fake Republicans—they'll vote for the real ones instead. ...

These members all know that, according to a Harvard study, 40,000 people a year die for lack of health insurance. Do they want that on their consciences? It's hard to imagine they do. This is their moment of truth as Democrats. Let's face it: if they vote to cripple a Democratic president now, they ain't real Democrats. It's like a Republican voting against Bush's tax cuts. In 2001 no House Republican did.

Ironically, this is not as hard a vote for Democrats as it looks. Sen. John Cornyn, the Texan who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says the midterms should be a "referendum" on repealing the health-care bill (if the bill fails, the Republicans will run against it anyway). Because the insurance-industry reforms kick in immediately, this means Republicans would be running against protections that even those queasy about health-care reform are not going to want stripped away. Whose side will candidates want to be on? The insurers—or average people happy that they have the security of not worrying about their health if they lose their job?

If the Republicans truly believe passage of this bill will ensure electoral victory for their party in 2010, why are they still fighting tooth-and-nail against it? Here's why: A Democrat is in the White House, so repealing healthcare reform next year would require the GOP to control both chambers of Congress with super-majorities -- the 2/3 needed to override Obama's certain veto.

Does anyone think the GOP can capture both houses of Congress in November? Charlie Cook thinks they can take the House with 40 flips, but that's still over 40 seats away from a super-majority. Switching 19 Senate seats and 86 seats in the House (Dems currently hold a 257-175 advantage --3 independents/vacancies at the moment -- and that represents 59.03%-40.23%, nearly precisely the same Senate percentages) is the only thing that gets the Republicans past a presidential veto.

In other words, running on a 'repeal healthcare' platform is tantamount to a lie. But of course, their voters really don't care about the truth anyway.

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