- Iditarod becomes mad dash for Nome
- ‘Burger King baby’ now seeks birth mom on Facebook
- Study: 2 percent of Americans have new hips, knees
- Friend: Pistorius shot gun out car without warning
- States wrestle with developing, restricting drones
- Japan marks 3rd anniversary of tsunami disasters
- Ukraine’s Crimea seeks to become independent state
- Ex-Gov. Christie aides to judge: Quash subpoenas
- Rich Peverley collapses on Dallas Stars bench; game postponed
- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
GOP takes aim at ‘Obama agenda’ backers for 2012
Health care the key weapon
When Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, voted last week to block a Republican attempt to repeal the 2010 health care law, his action on some levels was routine. The vote was straight along party lines, and the GOP effort was viewed largely as a symbolic gesture with little chance of success.
Within hours, however, the Republican public relations machine cranked into action, firing up press releases, videos and a website that attacked the newly minted senator for his vote and support of “the Obama agenda.”
“Despite his many campaign promises as he sought West Virginia's Senate seat, Manchin has used his time in Washington to embrace President Obama’s liberal policies,” Brian Walsh, a spokesman with the Senate Republican’s campaign arm, said in an e-mail to reporters the morning after Wednesday’s vote on repeal of the health care law.
Although the next congressional elections are more than 18 months away, the vote served as the opening salvo of the 2012 Senate campaigns. Republicans vow to continue to hold Democrats accountable for their support of the measure.
“Those were difficult votes” for moderate Democrats, said Steve Lombardo, a Republican pollster and president of the Lombardo Consulting Group. “The [Democratic leaders in the Senate] needed their votes, and they got them. But now they’ll pay some political price.”
Mr. Manchin, elected in November to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a Democrat, isn’t the only moderate Democrat up for re-election in 2012 who could face a Republican-induced backlash for support of the president’s health care initiative. Other likely targets include Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana.
Ben Nelson, in particular, has been hammered by Republicans since his initial support of the measure in late 2009.
Mr. Nelson, like many other moderate Democrats, said he doesn’t support scrapping the entire law but would consider tweaking or even repealing some of its provisions, including the “individual mandate” that will require most Americans to have health insurance or risk a penalty.
Mr. Nelson’s tactic could be enough to placate voters and keep them in office, especially if public concerns about the law fade over time, some political specialists say.
The law “is not wildly unpopular,” said John Fortier, a congressional analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank. “It’s just unpopular enough for Democrats in swing districts, but it’s not unpopular for 90 percent of them, so its not like the whole party has to fear” supporting it.
Other issues are likely to push aside health care reform as a signature issue of the 2012 elections, Mr. Lombardo said.
“No two campaigns are alike,” he said. “I would suspect that the next cycle is going to have its own set of characteristics that are going to differentiate from 2010.”
But with legal challenges to the law - with an expected last stop at the Supreme Court - the repeal debate will linger, said Sarah A. Binder, a congressional analyst with the Brookings Institution, a moderate Washington think tank.
“This is an issue that’s not going away,” she said. “And Republicans, for both policy and political reasons, think that it’s one of their hooks to building and regaining a [Senate] majority.”
Overplaying the health care card presents risks for both parties. Republicans hope the issue still will be relevant with voters by November 2012. Democrats are banking that the public soon will warm to the bill’s many reforms.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
- GOP tests Democrats on college loan issue
- Lawmakers outside intelligence loop get miffed about briefing structure in Congress
- John Boehner: Time is right to bring latest farm bill to House floor
- Supreme Court nears rulings on key voting rights cases
- John Boehner demands answers on NSA, phone records
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- FCC targets black conservative in TV station fight
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- Redskins free agency: 5 positions to watch
- EDITORIAL: Senate Democrats pointless all-night global warming talkathon
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
- SAUERBREY: Taxing Marylanders until they flee
- CPAC 2014: Despite Ben Carson's speech, gay marriage mostly took a back seat at CPAC
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again