Today Georgia primary voters choose a GOP nominee to face Michelle Nunn, who has emerged as an unexpectedly strong challenger on deep-red turf. Also today, Nunn’s position on Obamacare continues to receive national media scrutiny, as well it should.
But how about some scrutiny of the evasions, gyrations and equivocations we’re seeing from top-tier Republican Senate candidates on the very same issue?
Nunn came under media fire for refusing to say whether she would have voted for Obamacare if she’d been in the Senate at the time. The Associated Press picked up on Nunn’s evasions last night, and today Politico also weighs in, reporting that Nunn refused to answer questions on the topic.
Nunn needs a better answer to this question. Her approach to Obamacare has been too cute by half. But by any measure, the handling of health care by multiple Republican Senate candidates has been at least as ridiculous.
Local media have been pressing GOP Senate candidates in states where versions of the Medicaid expansion are moving forward to answer a simple question: For or against? In Arkansas, David Ramsey can only get word salad from Tom Cotton. In Michigan, local reporters can’t get anything clear out of Terri Lynn Land. And the Boston Globe (more of a national outlet) been unable to get an answer from New Hampshire candidate Scott Brown. In North Carolina, Thom Tillis’ stance on repeal is comically incoherent.
National media have not really registered any of this. (One exception is Kyle Cheney’s great look at Brown’s Obamacare buffoonery.) In some ways, this is perhaps understandable. The out-party can win by simply running against the in-party, with the details not necessarily mattering much. And it’s certainly on Democrats to make GOP equivocations on Obamacare a major issue.
But surely this merits a peek from top-shelf commentator and media types, anyway. The GOP party-wide position for years has been that the ACA is an epic disaster that defines the entire Obama presidency as an irrevocable failure. Republican officials confidently predict Obamacare’s unpopularity will flip control of the Senate in a massive repudiation of the President’s signature domestic accomplishment. Yet multiple GOP candidates in top-tier races are unwilling or unable to take a real position on one of the central pillars of the law, one that will impact tens or hundreds of thousands in the states they’d represent. Brown’s entire rationale for running is that Obamacare is awful, but he can’t answer the most basic questions about health care without dissolving into complete gibberish. Does that matter?
If Nunn’s evasions are so important — which they are — surely these Republican evasions are also newsworthy. They go right to the heart of the GOP’s approach to the central policy debate of the Obama era, shedding light on Republicans’ widespread inability to mount an even remotely credible policy response to fundamental questions that debate raises about how, or whether, government should act to expand health care to the poor. And they cast doubt on the veracity of the Obamacare-is-a-disaster political narrative that is central to the highly consequential midterm elections now underway. All this should be part of the story.
* WHAT TO WATCH TODAY ON SENATE RACES: Probably the most important primaries today are taking place in Kentucky and Georgia. In Kentucky, the question is whether Mitch McConnell will fall short of winning an overwhelming victory over Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin, which could conceivably mean depressed turnout among conservatives in a general election.
In Georgia, as ABC News explains, Nunn is emerging as an unexpectedly strong challenger. GOP Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey will fall out of contention, meaning Republicans will dodge the worst outcome, and the nominee will likely be businessman David Purdue or (electable) Tea Partyer Karen Handel. Still, with a runoff almost certain, those two may face each other for several more months, and Republicans may not have their nominee until late July.
* NUNN BACKS MEDICAID EXPANSION: Caitlin Huey-Burns looks at Nunn’s emerging strategy to win, which turns on winning over independents and boosting turnout among Dem-leaning whites, young voters and minorities. She won’t say whether she’d have voted for Obamacare, but she will say this:
Like other entrenched Democrats in similar states, she strongly approves the Medicaid expansion component of the ACA. While speaking with a group of supporters at the restaurant, Nunn said it was a mistake for Georgia to decline the federal money to expand Medicaid, and equated the decision by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and the legislature to “sending taxpayer money to other states.’’
That makes Nunn’s position on the Medicaid expansion clearer than that of GOP candidates Cotton, Brown, and Land.
* GRIMES READY TO TAKE ON McCONNELL: The Daily Independent of Kentucky takes a look at Alison Lundergan Grimes’ candidacy and finds signs that she is ready for what will shape up as months of protracted and bloody political warfare:, including this from a Monday event:
Grimes has repeatedly said she disagrees with Obama on environmental policies that the Kentucky coal industry and McConnell say are killing mining jobs in eastern Kentucky. But that hasn’t stopped McConnell from pointing out she’ll be one more vote for Reid to remain Majority Leader…..
But Grimes used an awkward comment McConnell made to a Beattyville newspaper a month ago, when he said bringing jobs to the area wasn’t the job of a U.S. Senator to paint McConnell as out of touch with Kentucky’s middle class. Grimes said “putting hard-working Kentuckians back to work” will be her number one priority as U.S. Senator and the first bill she’ll append her name to will be one to raise the minimum wage.
And thus the battle lines are drawn.
* WHAT TO WATCH TODAY ON IMMIGRATION: Elise Foley has a good curtain-raiser: Today a House committee will debate whether to attach the Enlist Act, which would allow some undocumented immigrants to join the military and possibly get a green card, to a defense authorization bill. Eric Cantor has already confirmed he’ll block any inclusion of the measure, but its Republican sponsor, Rep. Jeff Denham, is trying to push it forward anyway.
Conservative groups oppose the bill, and pretty much all you need to know about its chances in the Republican-controlled House. It’s likely fate of the Enlist Act is another reminder of the House GOP’s adamant unwillingness to consider even piecemeal reforms. Must not anger the right!
* THE PROBLEM WITH THE DEMS’ MIDTERM STRATEGY: The New York times has an interesting piece detailing that while the recovery has been very good for those at the top, unemployment and other deeper economic indicators show that core Democratic groups are being disproportionately left behind:
Rising payrolls, lower unemployment and a buoyed stock market, while lifting the fortunes of the rich, are leaving behind major Democratic constituencies, including young women and blacks, just as the party tries to motivate them to turn out to vote in November…Though broad measures of the economy are showing signs of improvement, a closer look at important indicators among individual groups reveals that voting blocs critical to Democrats in recent elections are not yet feeling the benefits.
The irony is that Dems are trying to motivate these groups with a concrete policy agenda designed to address rising inequality, wage stagnation and declining economic mobility and opportunity, but disillusionment with the recovery could work against them.
* A NEW TARGET FOR THE LEFT: It’s Senator Claire McCaskill, who claims the problem is not that billionaires are buying elections, but that so much of the money is secret. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee today will email 12,000 members in Missouri and urge them to pressure McCaskill to reaffirm her support for public campaign finance reform.
If the only problem is that the money is secret, that would appear to mean there is no problem with unlimited donations, if they are accompanied with full disclosure — a position held by many Republicans.
* AND THE NEXT GOP LINE ON BENGHAZI: Byron York reports on the new Republican response to the charge that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has already answered the questions the new select committee on #Benghazi wants answered:
It’s common for Republicans to say there are “unanswered questions” about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In some cases, though, it might be more accurate to say that questions have been answered, but Republicans don’t believe the answers.
The question is, can Republicans produce any real revelations justifying that continued posture? Will it even matter if they don’t, or will anything they do produce receive instant validation inside the Conservative Entertainment Complex, no matter what they actually tell us?