The Upshot has just released a batch of new polls of key Senate races that really scrambles the conventional wisdom about 2014 once again.
The polls, however, do suggest that Democrats do continue to have a serious Obamacare problem, though it is not what it appears.
The polls find Mark Pryor leading Tom Cotton in Arkansas (46-36) and Kay Hagan leading likely GOP challenger Thom Tillis in North Carolina (42-40). Mary Landrieu leads the rest of the field in Louisiana, though this is a jungle primary, so there’s no head to head, and she only commands 42 percent, which could be trouble in a runoff. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell leads Alison Lundergan Grimes by one point (44-43).
As always, this is one poll, so caution is in order: The averages show tight races in all four. But the Upshot’s new polling suggests the conventional wisdom that Pryor is dead could be wrong — indeed, none of these three red state Dem incumbents can be written off. Overall, as the Upshot’s write-up puts it, the political environment remains favorable for Republicans, but “circumstances in each state are keeping them in play for the Democrats.” These races will be long, hard, unpredictable slogs that will turn on multiple factors, and on the candidates themselves, despite the GOP’s tidy all-Obamacare-all-the-time political narrative.
This question is key:
Is it possible you would ever vote for a candidate who does not share your views on the 2010 health care law, or is this issue so important that you would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with you?
In Arkansas, 52 percent would not vote for a candidate who disagrees on Obamacare, versus 35 percent who are open to doing that. In Louisiana: 58-28. In North Carolina: 53-35. It seems plausible the intensity remains on the side of those who oppose the law. This would again suggest that the real problem Dems face with Obamacare is that it revs up GOP partisans far more than Dem ones — exacerbating the Dems’ already existing “midterm dropoff” problem.
However, in Kentucky, the numbers are a bit different: 46 percent would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on the law, while 39 percent say the opposite — much closer than in other states. Meanwhile, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear — the most outspoken defender of Obamacare in the south — has an approval rating of 56-29, while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal — who opposes the Medicaid expansion in his state — has an approval rating of 40-54. I don’t whether that is related to the health care debate. But it would be nice to have a poll in Kentucky measuring attitudes towards Kentucky Kynect, the state exchange there — which has signed up over 400,000 people and would be done away with if Mitch McConnell got his way.
* GOP’S NEW STRATEGY: MAKE 2014 ABOUT HARRY REID: The Associated Press reports that GOP Senate candidates are “adjusting their plans” to tie Democratic Senate incumbents to Harry Reid, arguing that he has abused his power and is no longer fit to remain Senate Majority Leader:
In Colorado, Senate hopeful Cory Gardner pledged to “make Harry Reid a footnote in history.” In Florida, a tea party leader pledged to “rip the gavel out of Harry Reid’s hand.” And in an ad in North Carolina, leading GOP Senate hopeful Thom Tillis gives Reid credit for an ad he is not directly behind: “Know who’s paying for the sleazy ads? It’s Harry Reid.”
The new strategy appears to be a response to Reid’s continual efforts to highlight the huge amounts of money the Koch brothers have spent to influence control of the Senate. It’s not clear Reid will mind the sight of GOP candidates leaping to the defense of the Kochs, however.
* DEMS TO GOP: GIVE UP ON OBAMACARE, ALREADY: In response to the new GOP strategy, the DSCC is out with a memo proclaiming it shows that Dem efforts to tie the Kochs to Republicans is working, and that Republicans are abandoning their all-Obamacare-all-the-time campaign:
Senate races are not a referendum on the President or on any one issue. In each of the competitive Senate races, there is a crystal clear contrast between a Democratic candidate who is focused on creating opportunity for the middle class and is willing to disagree with their own party leadership when they think it is right for their state and a Republican candidate who is beholden to the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, and a small group of right-wing billionaires who support an agenda that is dangerous for the middle class. The issues that will decide each Senate race differ from state to state.
It’s doubtful Republicans are actually abandoning their anti-Obamacare strategy. But it is certainly possible that as enrollment mounts and the law fades from the headlines, Dems may have more room to un-nationalize these contests.
* GOP SENATE SLUGFEST IN NORTH CAROLINA: Last night the GOP Senate primary candidates held a debate, with establishment favorite Thom Tillis increasingly coming under fire from conservative runner-ups Greg Brannon and Mark Harris. Notably, Brannon questioned Tillis’ anti-Obamacare cred. As you’ll recall, Tillis has equivocated on the health law, committing the apostasy of acknowledging that there may be some things in the law that aren’t entirely reprehensible.
The question remains whether Tillis will be able to clear the 40 percent to avoid a runoff. If not, he could face a head-to-head with Brannon that won’t be resolved until July. Relatedly: Glenn Kessler gives Three Pinnochios to Tillis’ efforts to defend himself on his staffers’ affairs, an issue that will continue to resonate.
* MEDICAID FIGHT HEATS UP IN LOUISIANA: One of the largest papers in the stage, the Baton Rouge Advocate, urges Governor Bobby Jindal to opt in to the Medicaid expansion, arguing that “expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor” and returning “U.S. tax dollars to the state” is a “financial and moral no-brainer.” This week a constitutional amendment on the expansion is being debated.
As noted yesterday, Mary Landrieu is pushing the expansion hard, and will hit opponent Bill Cassidy as part of a broader effort to put him on defense over Obamacare.
* MEDICAID EXPANSION A GREAT DEAL FOR STATES: Via Taegan Goddard’s Wonk Wire, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a valuable read on new data showing that the Medicaid expansion really should be a no-brainer.
* MORE PRESSURE ON GOP OVER IMMIGRATION: GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the Judiciary Committee, is a key player on immigration, and now his hometown paper, the Roanoke Times, is urging action on reform, including this quote from respected former GOP Rep. Tom Davis:
“The status quo is just entirely unacceptable,” he said in a telephone conference Tuesday. “This is an issue that needs to get resolved.”
Again: Republican leaders themselves have repeatedly said the immigration problem cannot stand, and that some form of legalizing the 11 million must be part of any solution. The obstacle to reform is the inability of House Republicans to find a way to do that that they can live with.
* AND NO, OBAMA COULD NOT HAVE BEEN LBJ: Norman Ornstein takes a sledge-hammer to the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Power, dismantling the widespread meme that if only Obama were more like LBJ, he could have willed more cooperation out of Republicans:
When Obama had the numbers, not as robust as LBJ’s but robust enough, he had a terrific record of legislative accomplishments…But all were done with either no or minimal Republican support. LBJ and Reagan had willing partners from the opposite party; Obama has had none. Nothing that he could have done would have changed the clear, deliberate policy of Republicans…that drew sharp lines of total opposition on policies like health reform and raising taxes as part of a broad budget deal. The brutal reality, in today’s politics, is that LBJ, if he were here now, could not be the LBJ of the Great Society years in this environment.
The real mystery is why some folks are so reluctant to acknowledge these basic realities.