Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whipping the House Vote

These House Democrats are worth watching on health-care. They voted in favor of the House version last year, which passed 220-215. Below, I've listed the Democrats representing districts McCain won in 2008 as well as some Democrats in Obama-won districts who might be open to switching to vote against Obamacare. The allies of reform moderation may only need to pick up a few of these votes to succeed.

I very much emphasize that this is a work in progress. If you have any other names to recommend or corrections or suggestions about new developments or arguments, please send me an email (probably the best way to get noticed) or post info. in the comments.

The data comes from CQ's invaluable 2008 election atlas; the ratings for various races in the notes are also often borrowed from CQ. The New York Times has a list of House Democrats who voted against the bill last year.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty passes along this list of possible vote switches (from yes to no and from no to yes). Meanwhile, some speculate that Pelosi may be able to flip 10 or so "no" votes, or at least they're sitting on the fence...

3/7 UPDATE: The Weekly Standard notes at least two other potential yes-to-no switchers in the House: Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN). Both have said they will not vote for a health-care bill with federal funding for abortion.

Key: After the name and district, the numbers are in the following order: Winning margin in 2008; McCain-Obama percentages; Year first elected. Districts Obama won are in italics. This list is sort of in the order of most likely to switch to least likely to switch, but it's not too serious.

Michael Arcuri (NY-24) 52% 48-50 06
Note: This district has a Republican lean, and Arcuri, a political moderate, is pushing for a more focused reform. 3/3: Arcuri has now said that he will very likely vote against the Senate bill on the House floor.

Tom Perriello (VA-05) 50% 51-48 08
Note: This race was a squeaker in 08 in a state that's now swung hard away from the Democrats. He now seems to be trying to edge towards voting for a bill even if it does have abortion coverage. But will he want to take that electoral risk?

Mark Schauer (MI-7) 49% 46-52 08
Note: This race is rated a toss-up and could be a tough battle for this freshman. Voting "yes" on health-care reform might make this battle even harder.

Zack Space (OH-18) 60% 53-45 06
Note: Space has been very vocal in his opposition to the Senate version of health-care, and seems to be keeping silent on Obama's proposal. From a Republican-leaning district, Space got into the House in part due to disgust with the corruption of his Republican predecessor.

Steve Driehaus (OH-1) 53% 44-55 06
Note: This district seems to be trending in the direction of the Democrats, but Driehaus is pushing for
stronger anti-abortion language.

Baron Hill (IN-9) 50% 50-46 06
Note: This district has swung between R and D Representatives over the past decade. It tilts Republican; this race is rated Lean D. It could be a close one.

Gary Peters (MI-9) 52% 48-52 08
Note: This district swung from a slight R advantage to a strong showing for Obama in 2008. 2010 might tell a different story and hurt Peters' reelection chances. Peters is in many ways a moderate, so it might be to his advantage to take a stand for a more moderate bill.

Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3) 51% 49-49 08
Note: Tight race in 08. Rated Lean D. Dehlkemper's talking up her opposition to abortion.

Earl Pomeroy (ND-At Large) 62% 53-45 92
Note: Obamacare is wildly unpopular in North Dakota, and Pomeroy voted against the bill on the Ways and Means Committee. The pressure on him must be considerable from leadership, and he's buckled before.

Brad Ellsworth (IN-8) 65% 51-47 06
Note: Ellsworth's running for Senate. A tough "yes" on health-care might not help him electorally.

Dennis Cardozo (CA-18) 100% 39-59 02
Note: This district voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and could be a little swing-y. Cardozo has expressed significant reservations about Obama's proposal.

Bart Stupak (MI-1) 65% 48-50 92
Note: Stupak is the author of the anti-abortion language in the House bill. Without that, he may follow through on his threats and abandon support of the measure.

Charlie Wilson (OH-6) 62% 50-48 06
Note: McCain won this district, but it has a long tradition of voting for Democrats in the House. Wilson has expressed limited enthusiasm for Obama's plan.

Anne Kirkpatrick (AZ-1) 55% 54-44 08
Note:This is rated as an R+6 district. R predecessor indicted. Voter alienation may not carry over into 2010.

Vic Snyder (AR-2) 76% 54-44 96
Note: Snyder's retiring; his seat is rated Lean Republican. This retirement may make him feel immune to voter displeasure in Arkansas.

Marion Berry (AR-1) 100% 59-38 96
Note: A staunch Blue Dog, Berry is retiring at the end of his term. He's angry with Pelosi for the position she's put the BD's in. Will he reward her with a "yes" vote this time?

John Spratt (SC-05) 61% 53-46 82
Note: Spratt's a survivor, but his race in 2010 is looking increasingly competitive. Voting all the time with Pelosi and the House leadership might not endear Spratt to his SC constituents.

Dina Titus (NV-3) 47% 43-55 08
Note: Titus won a fairly close election in 2008, and this year could also be a challenge for her. Still, she seems to be
stepping away from her earlier objections to aspects of the health-care bill.

Chris Carney (PA-10) 56% 54-45 06
Note: R district, but Carney's a formidable candidate. He might feel he can take the heat from a "yes" vote.

Nick Rahall (WV-3) 67% 56-42 76
Note: Rahall and fellow WV Democrat Mollohan have right-leaning districts but seem personally very popular. Still, could this bill drive voters to abandon him?

Alan Mohollan (WV-2) 99% 57-42 82
Note: See Rahall above. Mohollan's seat may not be quite as safe.

John Salazar (CO-3) 61% 50-48 04
Note: Salazar's district has a strong Republican bias, but he's been able to overcome that in the past. He seems a pretty strong backer of health-care reform.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Battle Lines

The New York Times has a survey of the two blocks of Democrats that Nancy Pelosi must deal with if the latest version of Obamacare is to pass the house: the foes of abortion and fiscal moderates.

In the House, lawmakers like Mr. Kratovil and Mr. Cardoza, and other swing Democrats like them, will come under increasing scrutiny from leadership as a vote draws near. Of the 219 Democrats who initially voted in favor of the House measure, roughly 40 did so in part because it contained the so-called Stupak amendment, intended to discourage insurers from covering abortion.

Some, notably Representative Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat for whom the amendment is named, will almost certainly switch their yes votes to no because the new version being pushed by Mr. Obama would strip out the House bill’s abortion restrictions in favor of Senate language that many of them consider unacceptable.

An additional 39, like Mr. Kratovil, are fiscal conservatives who voted no the first time around. Ms. Pelosi is hoping that she can get some to switch those no votes to yes in favor of Mr. Obama’s less expensive measure.

Those are potentially 80 or so votes in play. If opponents of Obamacare can pick off at least a few more votes, and keep the 39 Democrats who voted against the health-care bill last year, they could stop this bill. Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire (PA) has some words that might encourage Obamacare opponents:
“I don’t know of any no votes at this point that would switch unless the bill is substantially changed, including me,” he said. “And I know of a handful of yes votes who regret it and would relish the opportunity to put a no vote on the board so they could go back home and talk about that.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Crist's Difficulties

Governor Charlie Crist faces an uphill battle in the struggle for the GOP nomination for the 2010 Senate race in Florida. Former state Speaker of the House Marco Rubio leads Crist 54-36 among Republican voters, according to a Rasmussen poll. The formerly insurgent Rubio has now become the front-runner. Results from another Rasmussen poll probably solidify Rubio's position. Both Republicans lead the likely Democratic nominee, Crist by 18 and Rubio by 20.

These numbers do more than show the strong position of the GOP in this race. They also undercut the claim that Crist is significantly more "electable" than Rubio. These numbers allow conservative-leaning Republicans in Florida to have their cake and eat it, too: they can vote for the red-meat Rubio, who has fashioned himself as being to the right of Crist, while also voting for an electable candidate. If polls showed a significant advantage for Crist in the general, he might have an easier time turning the primary race around. Instead, Crist and Rubio poll as equally electable, perhaps even with a slight edge for Rubio, to Crist's disadvantage.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Obamacare: Grand Entrance

As Marc Ambinder says, Obamacare, with the full approval of the White House, has now taken the stage. Philip Klein has a breakdown of some of the mechanisms of the proposal---and how it will ensure that you cannot, in fact, keep your present health-care coverage.

Perhaps one of the most striking portions of the White House proposal would be the creation of an entity to monitor "excessive" increases in insurance costs. This would be a radical expansion of governmental intervention into the health-care market. James Joyner argues that
This would, in effect, turn private health insurance companies into public utilities. And, while that makes some sense in the case of monopoly providers for vital services where efficiencies won’t allow multiple competitors — multiple power grids and the like are not feasible — it’s truly a bizarre idea in a field, such as health insurance, where dozens of providers exist and the barriers to entry for other competitors are relatively low.
The CBO won't be able to score the legislation for a while. Democrats continue to rumble about reconciliation to pass the bill.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Murray Vulnerable?

Eighteen-year Senate incumbent Patty Murray (D-Washington) might find her name beginning to rise in the list of endangered Senate seats. A Rasmussen poll shows her lagging behind possible Republican challenger Dino Rossi, who lost the 2004 gubernatorial race in Washington by a razor-thin margin and also ran for governor in 2008. A newly released SurveyUSA poll shows Murray with a 43-50 approval rating, dangerous territory for an incumbent. 61% of independents disapprove of her job performance. Will voting to push through Obamacare via the reconciliation process endear her to them?

UPDATE: A lot of commenters have replied with some skepticism about the prospects of Murray losing this seat. This skepticism is not completely unjustified; it's not for nothing that the Cook Political Report calls this race Solid Democrat. However, the political landscape is being shaken up day by day. I'm sure many would have rated the Massachusetts Senate race a Solid Democrat race in November 2009. The reductio ad Scott Brown may increasingly sound hackneyed, but there is an element of truth to it. As another commenter pointed out, candidate recruitment would be crucial. Based on Murray's current polling (and her approval rating has fallen about ten points from a year ago), the right Republican candidate could certainly make a strong go of it. Washington did, after all, have a Republican Senator as recently as 2001. So a Republican victory could be a possibility, one that seems to be growing stronger.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rasmussen: Toomey Leading

According to a new poll by Rasmussen, Former House member Pat Toomey (R) leads both possible Democratic candidates for Senate in Pennsylvania. He leads Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter 47-38 and Rep. Joe Sestak, who's challenging Specter for the Democratic nomination, 43-35.

President Obama's numbers are probably pulling down both Democrats' numbers. The poll further reveals that 54% of PA voters disapprove of the job Obama is doing. Toomey leads both Democrats handily in terms of favorability ratings. To put how rough things are for Arlen Specter, who seems to have a strong advantage in the Democratic primary battle: his very unfavorable rating (38%) is almost as high as his combined very favorable and somewhat favorable rating (41%).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Filibuster Politics

A snapshot of the current online "progressive" debate about the filibuster: Paul Krugman conjures the specter of national dissolution in order to show the purported dangers of the filibuster. Ezra Klein, not exactly a friend of the filibuster, offers a few contrary points. Meanwhile, Steve Benen keeps up the "progressive" attack that the inability of Obama and Congressional Democrats to get their way on crucial issues is a sign of a dysfunctional society.

Chris Cillizza has an interesting piece up about the political dynamic of the White House's increasing emphasis upon the filibuster as a campaign issue. He puts forward two theories for this renewed interest:
The first is that the White House believes that the filibuster can be used as symbolic image for why the government (still) isn't working and why it's Republicans fault.

The second theory on the focus on the filibuster is that it is a play to energize what has been, of late, a very listless Democratic base.
I think these are both solid observations. Attacking the filibuster could certainly be an effective tactic for rousing the Democratic base.

Cillizza's first theory also ties neatly into the "progressive" narrative that the United States is somehow "ungovernable" if "progressive" policy positions cannot swiftly become law. There certainly has been increased noise about how the lack of action makes a nation ungovernable (avoiding the argument that sometimes frustrating bad actions is itself a sign of good government), and the filibuster, as an obstacle to "progressive" dreams, could certainly become an image of inaction.

Another possible theory for the White House's increasing vitriol against the filibuster: a desire to get rid of it. There is much institutional deference for the filibuster, as Cillizza acknowledges, but there is a certain "progressive" wing that sincerely would like to get rid of it. Part of the escalating attacks upon the filibuster---how it will cause the dissolution of the nation, the destruction of America, and so forth---may be an attempt by this wing to push to borders of debate in order to begin to make the gutting of the filibuster seem a reasonable course of action.

However, it's not hard to see why many institutional power players in DC like the filibuster in its current incarnation. The filibuster is one of the great facilitators of Beltway kabuki. Senators of various ideological stripes can craft their rhetoric (playing to the base, playing to moderates, or whatever audience they choose) knowing that the filibuster will be there to let them avoid casting black-and-white votes. It can provoke a continued sense of frustration, encouraging donors to give ever more to the party in order to ensure that it can overwhelm the filibuster (see Cillizza's second theory).

So there are all sorts of ways that the filibuster can benefit incumbents while frustrating certain ideologues. And that conflict of expediency and ideology in part explains the various, sometimes contradictory, tendencies of current leftish discussion of the filibuster. Some would like to abolish it. Some would like to talk about abolishing it. Some would like to maintain it. And some will go whichever way the political winds blow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

HI-01: Another Change?

Tim Mak over at FrumForum raises the interesting possibility of a Republican takeover in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District. Republican Charles Djou is running in the May 1 special election to replace Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who's resigning to run for governor. Mak notes that this district could possibly go the GOP's way:

Unlike Florida-19, which was won by President Obama by over thirty points in 2008, Hawaii-1 looks to be a district where voter dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party could lead to a Republican pick-up. While still quite blue (D+15 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index), Hawaii’s 1st congressional district has gone to the GOP in the last four governor’s races.

Further, the special election is set up in winner-take-all format, meaning that there are no primaries. With two, maybe three Democrats in the race, Djou thinks that Hawaii-1 could be the inverse of one closely-followed special election in upstate New York: “I think that my special election could essentially be the inverse of the New York-23 election, with the Democrats splitting the vote.”

Djou, a Honolulu City Councilman and a former Minority Floor Leader in the State House, understands that being labeled a Republican can be a liability in his district, so he has run a campaign based on the theme of independence: “I don’t covet the national Republican party’s label or being anointed by them,” he tells FrumForum. “I welcome their support, [but] I’ve built my career… on being an independent voice for my constituents.”

This certainly could be an interesting race.

OR-05: Pickup Opportunity

Oregon House member Scott Bruun is running against US Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) in Oregon's 5th Congressional District. This seat is probably the GOP's best pickup opportunity in Oregon. Rep. Greg Walden represents the 2nd. The other districts have been overwhelmingly Democratic for years and years (though, as Massachusetts showed last month, even deep-Democrat territories might not be electorally safe for Democrats anymore).

Democrats have held the 5th since 1997, but neither Darlene Hooley (serving from 1997-2009) nor Kurt Schrader (from 2009 to the present) cracked 60% on election day. Instead, the Democratic candidates often linger in the mid-low 50s. Even in 2006 and 2008, both strong years for Democrats, Hooley and Schrader both hung around 54%. So this is a district that could swing the Republicans' way.

Bruun seems to be focusing on four issues: spending, health-care, national security, and job creation. It is telling that now many Republicans are using health-care, which was long regarded as a Democratic strength, as a talking point. On health-care, Bruun takes the free-market tack:
I believe that you can't fix healthcare until you implement free market reforms. I also believe that you can't address these free market reforms unless it's done on a bi-partisan basis. There's no doubt that bi-partisanship here is a challenge but it has to be the goal. The European-style nationalization of healthcare that we have been witnessing since the Summer of 2009 is not bi-partisan, and would and will exasperate every problem that now exists in healthcare. Costs will grow, quality and access will shrink, and ultimately only the very rich few will be able to opt out of the system. The rest of us will be stuck, and that's not healthy for America.

Instead, congress should look to create a real market for healthcare. Let individuals and families enjoy the same tax benefits that companies enjoy; so that if we need to, we can shop for health coverage. Let Americans be the customer for once, not just the patient. This would certainly solve the portability problem and begin to reduce costs.

Let Americans buy insurance wherever they want, even across state lines. If it's an Oregon policy, great. But if the best policy for a family is to be found in Florida, or Colorado, so be it. Let us buy it. Open interstate commerce is the responsibility of congress to promote and protect… so do it, congress! Also, let's fix our tort system to reduce the cost of defensive medicine.

Bruun is also reaching out to seniors in his claim that we need to "protect Medicare for seniors by fixing Medicare, not by raiding it to support a fatally-flawed healthcare gambit."

Though Bruun is probably the favorite to win the Republican primary (contributions are coming in at a healthy pace), Fred Thompson (no, not that Fred Thompson) is also running. Thompson is hitting a lot of the same themes---health-care, spending, and defense.

In order to take back the House, Republicans will need to build a majority district-by-district. The last Republican to hold the 5th, Jim Bunn, was elected in 1994. Maybe another Republican wave will carry the 5th in 2010.

CORRECTION: Greg Walden holds the 2nd District seat. Original text fixed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

MA-10: It's a Race

Massachusetts State Representative Jeff Perry has declared his candidacy for Congressman from MA's 10th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D). The 10th went overwhelmingly for Scott Brown in the recent special election, and Perry may hope that history repeats itself in November to propel him to Washington.

Perry seems to be aiming to capitalize on the reach and enthusiasm-generating power of online media, rolling out Twitter and Facebook feeds as well as a website for his campaign (Perry already has a YouTube channel). He's also hammering on the reform theme. In a statement released to the media, Perry claims that
“They [the people of MA-10] need someone who will stand up for the things they believe in and fight for action on issues like real health care reform without mandates, better job opportunities, checks on illegal immigration, national security, lower taxes and less national debt, and an end to the insider and special-interest dealing that permeates Capitol Hill. People across the South Shore, Cape Cod & the Islands are tired and frustrated with what they see as a system in Washington that’s broken and that’s incapable of progress on issues that matter to them. I want to be someone who changes that.”
The 10th is shaping up to be one of most hotly-contested Congressional races in Massachusetts. Two other Republicans, Ray Kasperowicz and Donald Hussey, have already thrown their hats into the primary ring. Former state treasurer Joe Malone and current state senator Bob Hedlund are also considering running for the seat (Malone seems more strongly inclined than Hedlund at the moment). So we could be looking at five Republicans facing off for the chance to run against an incumbent Democrat---in Massachusetts (cue strained expression of shock). If a high level of opposition interest is a sign of an incumbent's weakness, Bill Delahunt may be in for quite the fight in November. And if a race in New England can generate this much GOP interest, Democrats could find many unanticipated electoral battlefields across the country.

Of the three certain contenders, Perry has a number of strengths: he's been elected to a higher legislative office, has many institutional allies, and enjoys the reputation of being a principled but open-minded conservative. He also is willing to buck his party leadership, voting against the Massachusetts health-reform act of 2006, one of the few Republicans to do so. Malone and Hedlund would both bring their own strengths to the table. Malone probably has a higher name recognition (though this could be a double-edged sword), and Hedlund, a long-time veteran of the state legislature, has a considerable GOP network.

In this race, as in many others across the nation, GOP candidates will need to develop a narrative of reform. There are high levels of public alienation from what's going on in Washington, but there is also lingering public distrust of Republicanism. To some extent, a successful rebranding strategy for the GOP might involve a deescalation of partisan rhetoric. Individual Republican candidates will need to show that they are open-minded and willing to work cooperatively for real reform. At the same time, they can exploit public unhappiness with the Democratic status quo. Hopeful, reform-minded change could bring big wins for the GOP in 2010.