As I’ve noted before, the Medicaid expansion has taken on a kind of political life of its own, separate from Big Bad Obamacare. In Michigan, the expected GOP Senate candidate has come out for the expansion. In deep red Louisiana, Dem Mary Landrieu will make it a big issue when it’s debated this spring. Dems in tough red state Senate battles — Michelle Nunn in Georgia and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky — are standing up for the expansion.
Now the issue is flaring up in yet another deep red state where the Dem is defending the idea — South Carolina — and how it plays here will be very interesting to watch. This latest development provides a glimpse into how absurd the arguments against opting in have become.
Politico reports that the Republican Governors Association is up with this new spot ripping Governor Nikki Haley’s Dem opponent, Vincent Sheheen, for supporting the expansion, which Haley decided to opt out of:
The argument made here, with no exaggeration, is that the Medicaid expansion is bad because it’s Obamacare. That’s the whole argument. Here’s the script:
Vincent Sheheen wants to use Obamacare for a $2 billion expansion of Medicaid in South Carolina. Millions of families losing their health plans. 34,000 South Carolina jobs could be lost.
The use of this $2 billion figure to create the impression of a frightening expansion of Big Gummint is interesting, because as Sheheen has pointed out, opting in to the expansion would bring in $2 billion in federal money to the state. But it must be opposed because it’s Obamacare, and Obamacare means people will lose health plans and jobs will be killed. Of course, in reality accepting the expansion could expand health coverage to as many as half a million people in the state, and Shaheen has cited a University of South Carolina study finding that accepting that money could create tens of thousands of new jobs. But it’s Obamacare, so it must be bad.
The politics of the Medicaid expansion are going to get more and more complex, even in red states. We’ve now learned that in Kentucky, 265,000 have enrolled for Obamacare, over 200,000 of them via qualifying for Medicaid. Yet Mitch McConnell continues to call for repealing the law “root and branch.” In Louisiana, Americans for Prosperity is running a campaign to block the expansion, which will be debated by the state legislature this spring, and Dems are already attacking Landrieu’s likely GOP opponent, GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, for opposing it.
Of course, in these states, it’s possible that simply calling the Medicaid expansion “Obamacare” will be a winning argument.
* OBAMA RESIGNED TO PUTIN’S OCCUPATION OF CRIMEA: Peter Baker has a good overview of the pressure that’s rising on the president to respond more forcefully to the Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula. This is a key nugget:
Privately, they said they did not expect Mr. Putin to accept, and they conceded that Mr. Obama probably could not reverse the occupation of Crimea in the short term. They said they were focusing on blocking any further Russian move into eastern Ukraine that would split the country in half.
Some experts tell Baker that they think preventing the situation from deteriorating further, rather than focusing on “tough talk” in response to what Putin has already done, is the right move, given the circumstances.
* LAWMAKERS PRESSURE OBAMA FOR MORE FORCEFUL ACTION: One other key tidbit from Peter Baker’s piece, about lawmakers who claim Obama is being too passive in the face of the crisis:
No significant political leaders in Washington urged a military response, but many wanted Mr. Obama to go further than he has so far…While Mr. Obama has not gone as far as many in Washington want him to go, the president has been less focused on immediate actions than on making sure he and America’s traditional allies are on the same page.
Also see Daniel Larison, who pushes back on the “get tough” caucus by arguing: “the priority at the moment has to be to prevent the crisis from escalating into armed conflict.”
* THE LATEST IN FLORIDA’S SPECIAL ELECTION: The Tampa Bay Times’s Adam Smith takes note of the fact that Republican David Jolly has only a slight edge in absentee ballot returns, which should favor Republicans by a larger margin, and offers this on the state of the race:
His campaign has raised less than half that of Democrat Alex Sink, meaning the candidate claiming to be the local one is relying mostly on out-of-state GOP groups to get his message out. On top of that, GOP absentee ballot returns have his side worried, and his over-the-top attacks that Sink is a bigot for saying undocumented immigrants often work as landscapers and hotel cleaners hardly suggests confidence on his part in the final stretch.
As of yesterday, the percentage of absentee ballots mailed in were 42 percent Republican versus 39 percent Democratic. As David Wasserman explains, that suggests an advantage to Sink, because Republicans have lost previous elections with a significantly larger absentee ballot edge. Regular reminder: Whoever wins, ignore all the hype about what the outcome means for November 2014.
* THE WRONGHEADED CONSERVATIVE ECONOMIC WORLDVIEW: Paul Krugman looks at new revelations about the Fed’s obsession with inflation when the economic crisis loomed, and notes that those who continue to be obsessed with inflation when the fed should be doing more to spur the recovery tend to be conservatives:
Why is this the case? In part it reflects the belief that the government should never seek to mitigate economic pain, because the private sector always knows best…The flip side of this antigovernment attitude is the conviction that any attempt to boost the economy, whether fiscal or monetary, must produce disastrous results — Zimbabwe, here we come! And this conviction is so strong that it persists no matter how wrong it has been, year after year.
* THE MINIMUM WAGE AS KEY RED STATE ISSUE: Senator Mark Pryor, one of the most vulnerable Dem incumbents of the cycle, is out with a new petition to gather support for raising the minimum wage. It’s another reminder that this will be absolutely crucial to Dem efforts to draw a sharp contrast over the economy in ways that could have appeal even to red state voters.
* AND YOUR SORELY NEEDED COMIC RELIEF, DARRELL ISSA EDITION: GOP Rep. Darrell Issa is upset that his claim about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi won Four Pinnochios from Glenn Kessler, so he contested the ruling. Kessler responds by again awarding him Four Pinnochios.
This is a reminder, again, of the “lazy mendacity” Jonathan Bernstein has talked about, in which Republicans grow accustomed to making things up in friendly media settings.