Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 17, 2010

'THE REPERCUSSIONS THEY WILL SUFFER WILL BE HUGE'.... The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll offers a few interesting insights on health care. In particular, the results suggest Democrats would be committing political suicide if they let this opportunity fail.

First, let's note a few top-line results. President Obama's approval rating stands at 48% in this poll. On the generic ballot questions, Dems lead Republicans by three points, one point better than in January, and Democrats still enjoy a modest lead over the GOP on overall favorability. Congress' overall approval rating is down to a humiliating 17%, its lowest point since late 2008.

Specifically on the issue of the day, however, the divisions on health care are pretty stark. A 46% plurality believe it would be better to see the Democratic proposal pass, while 45% would rather see it fail and keep the status quo (this is better than December, when the numbers leaned in the other direction). Just 36% believe the reform plan is a good idea, though that total is up five points since January.

This was symptomatic of the overall divisions -- 34% of poll respondents said they'll be less likely to vote for their representative if they vote to kill reform, and 36% said they'll be less likely to vote for their representative if they vote to pass reform.

So, what's an on-the-fence Democratic lawmaker to think? These are the numbers they should probably pay the closest attention to:

Democratic respondents are overwhelmingly supportive of Obama's health care plan -- they think it's a good idea by a 64-16 percent margin, according to the poll. [Pollster Peter Hart] argues that such strong support from the base will ultimately make a "yes" vote an easier sell for Democrats who are on the fence.

The key concern for these lawmakers isn't losing some voters in the middle, he says. "It is alienating the base."

"From my point of view, it might look like a difficult vote," Hart says. "But they don't have a choice. The repercussions they will suffer will be huge."

Dems also must be cognizant of the enthusiasm gap -- 67% of Republicans said they're "very interested" in the midterm elections, compared with 46% of Democrats.

"If the Democrats are going to close that gap, they've got to get their people excited," Hart added. "And I don't see how you get those people if you vote no" on health care reform.

Some readers have emailed me lately, asking whether I think the reform bill will pass when push comes to shove. My answer is always the same: if common sense prevails, Dems have no choice but to succeed. If Democrats work for a year, pass reform in both chambers, and then let it die anyway, it would be electoral suicide.

But that's not a firm answer, because Democrats' capacity for self-destruction can be extraordinary.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Ike Skelton was bragging on local TV the other day that nobody in leadership was putting any pressure on him to change from no to yes. I wonder who is being whipped if one of the key committee chairs is given a pass?

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 17, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

What the Dems are passing isn't health care reform,it's a massive gift to the health insurance companies. Real Democrats,in the FDR mold, understand this.

Posted by: par4 on March 17, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Er, par4, hasn't this been asked many times and answered? Time to move on and join the Pass-The-Damn-Bill, and, then, start working on perfecting that said bill. As discussed in other threads, Social Security and Medicare were imperfect bills at their times of passage. Both have been upgraded since then. Get our feet in the door, first, and, then stand tall and enter the room. Sure, I wanted Single Payer and still do, but, the time to stop pouting is now. Let us move forward.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 17, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Bert, I was about to take the par4 bait.

Posted by: JM on March 17, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Unless the Congressional Democrats can pull it together, our choices for the fall seem to be a party that can't run government, and a party that wants to dismantle it.

Smart government can only be implemented if the electorate demands it, but alas, look at the recent test scores and one can plainly see no such collective wisdom needed to sustain a vibrant democracy! Passing HCR and vigorously framing the fall campaign as a need to continue the work is the only way the Dems have a chance! Otherwise, it's just unassuming Americans going to the mid-term polls in November at about a 39% turnout.

Only by taking the lead and passing HCR sooner than later, then immediately stepping into a gungho campaign trail can the Dems hope to stay in office or build a bigger majority, but I don't see any spunk among the Congressional Dems. Where are our forward looking leaders? Reading Frank Luntz data? I hope not! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 17, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Dalkemper (PA-3) was quoted in today's paper as being undecided. (She is of the Stupak 12 and was previously quoted as being a likely no.) She also came out against an anti-health-reform TV ad, calling it shameful and dishonest. I think this is definitely laying the groundwork for a yes vote, but she won't declare herself as a definite yes until the last minute to save herself harrassment from tea party nutjobs (and possibly to extract some sort of goodie from the WH).

Posted by: uncle toby on March 17, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

I am a lifelong Democrat and have already decided that if the Democrats blow this opportunity, I am going to stay home in November regardless of the consequences. If we can't pass one of our major priorities with the White House and majorities in both houses of congress, then our representatives deserve to be thrown out of office...maybe then we can get representatives who have the guts, intellect, and strategic saavy to actually get things done.

Posted by: nobody on March 17, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

I always wonder if the people in the country who do not want the bill to be passed think it has death panels and all the nasty things the tea baggers say it does.

Posted by: JS on March 17, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

I think they'll find a shift in the enthusiasm if they manage to pass this bill. Part of the general malaise certainly must be the result of frustration over the inefficacy of Congress.

Posted by: doubtful on March 17, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

One key political benefit of passing health care reform is that it would undermine the arguments against it. People would see that there are no death panels and there are no government bureaucrats between them and their doctors.

Posted by: david1234 on March 17, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

if common sense prevails, Dems have no choice but to succeed.

Although Democrats tend to be more on my side than Republicans, in general they're not really any smarter or less corrupt, just less regimented.

Posted by: qwerty on March 17, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Folks, the bill is in the House, not the Senate.

Is anyone who wants this to pass seriously worried that Pelosi isn't going to get this done?

Posted by: Argle Bargle on March 17, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

The key concern for these lawmakers isn't losing some voters in the middle, he says. "It is alienating the base."

Took New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts for them to learn that? Talk about "slow learners"... Sheesh...

Posted by: exlibra on March 17, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Enthusiasm for Democrats is always low in non-Presidential election years. I would like to see a comparative analysis with previous non-Presidential elections.

Posted by: phastphil on March 17, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I will keep saying this until I'm blue in the face, but progressive Democrats can turn a sow's ear (no public option) into a silk purse by, first, declaring that the public option will never go away, and second, actually reviving it as the first great fix-it bill. Standing by itself, the already-popular concept will only gain public support -- quite possibly, overwhelming public support. Lukewarm Democrats in Congress will no longer have the cover of being supporters of the main bill, and it will be virtually a litmus test for their future support among the Democratic base that overwhelmingly wanted a public option. It will be a defining issue for Republicans, too, who now will have none of the process or complexity arguments and will simply be protecting insurance company profits and monstrous CEO salaries.

November will be a lot different than it looks now. It's a no-brainer, and if Obama is smart and wants to mend fences with his formerly most ardent fund-raisers and bell-ringers, he will fire the first shot across the bow: everybody knows the public option idea will never die -- that's just a matter of hard political fact -- and the insurance and for-profit healthcare industries better start preparing for what is probably inevitable.

Posted by: urban legend on March 17, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think it may have been in here but, somewhere early last year it was suggested that the congress could vote the HCR the voters wanted or they could vote with the $$$ that would be opposing HCR.

Well it now would appear that they have gone with the $$$ because win lose or draw, the bill they will now be voting, SuX compared with what it should be.

We ordered a Martini & instead we are getting Water w/an olive.

Posted by: cwolf on March 17, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK
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