The Washington Post

Obama voters are well-represented on debt reduction ‘supercommittee’

Nine of the 12 members of the so-called debt reduction “supercommittee” represent districts or states that went for President Obama in 2008 – a reflection of the political concerns that will be paramount when lawmakers meet in the coming weeks.

None of the 12 members have immediate concerns about their political futures in the 2012 election – at least right now – but a few of them have reason to be watching their backs as they advance with what is likely to be a tortuous and tricky political process.

Here’s a primer on what the panel’s members need to be watching:

* Four of the six Republicans, and five Democrats, on the supercommittee represent districts or states that Obama won in 2008. But thus far, none of the committee’s Republicans faces imminent general election trouble in 2012 or 2014.

Among the Republicans who come fromdistricts and states that favored Obama in the last presidential race, both Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) haven’t been targeted by Democrats in recent years and also got a little bit of help from the GOP-draft redistricting map that will take effect in 2012.

And first-term Sens. Pat Toomey (R) and Rob Portman (R) could both have tough reelection bids ahead in Pennsylvania and Ohio, both hail from swing states where Obama was victorious in 2008, they won’t occur until 2016, since both men were first elected in 2010.

* While Upton has little to worry about in a general election, he’s one of two members of the committee with legitimate primary concerns. In fact, the Republican has faced two serious primaries in the last decade, including one in which he survived with 57 percent of the vote against an under-funded former state legislator in 2010.

The second lawmaker who could be vulnerable in a primary is Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who has seen his personal approval numbers fall below 40 percent in his home state and faces the prospect of a 2014 primary with outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D). If Baucus continues to struggle, he could also face trouble in the general election — provided the 69-year old seeks reelection, of course. Both Upton and Baucus will have to worry about inflaming tensions that already exist about their voting records.

* None of the senators on the committee faces reelection in 2012. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who is one of the two committee members who doesn’t represent an Obama district, would have had to run in 2012, but is instead retiring. He might have had a tough race on his hands – particularly if Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) opted to run against him – but as it stands he doesn’t have much to worry about politically.

In fact, about the only members of the 12-person committee to face tough races in recent years were Sens. Toomey and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who won top-tier Senate contests in 2010.

* Murray will oversee her party’s efforts to maintain the Senate majority in the competitive 2012 cycle as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee after winning her own reelection race in 2010. With Republicans looking like they might be able to retake the majority, Murray is in the unenviable position of fending them off.

* Only two members of the supercommittee – Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) – opposed the 2012 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout. And only two members – Becerra and Toomey – voted against the final debt limit deal earlier this month.

* Eight of the 12 panel members have been in Congress since at least 1994, and four have been around since the 1980s.

(Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that all six Democrats on the “supercommittee” come from districts or states that Obama carried. In fact, Baucus does not.)

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Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.


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