Here’s another sign that the stance on Obamacare held by many GOP Senate candidates — whether you call it “repeal,” or “repeal and replace with something-or-other to be specified later” — is becoming increasingly unsustainable and could get harder and harder to explain as these campaigns intensify.
In a weekend interview with WMUR, Scott Brown — who is running for Senate in New Hampshire — attempted to explain his stance on health care. He endorsed the general goals of protecting people with preexisting conditions and expanding coverage to those who need it. But he then denounced Obamacare as a “disaster,” citing the usual litany of Obama tyrannies and horror stories often hawked by Republicans.
So, how would Senator Scott Brown go about accomplishing the goals he says he supports? Well, he urges reform on the state level. Here’s the key quote from the interview (just after the 10-minute mark):
“I’ve always felt that people should either get some type of health care options, or pay for it with a nice competitive fee. That’s all great. I believe it in my heart. In terms of preexisting conditions, catastrophic coverage, covering kids — whatever we want to do, we can do it. As a matter of fact, in New Hampshire, I would encourage everybody to do a New Hampshire plan that works for New Hamphsire, that deals with individual freedoms, and doesn’t have mandates put on by bureaucrats in Washington….a plan that is good for New Hampshire…can include the Medicaid expansion folks who need that care and coverage.”
Asked if he agrees with the “philosophy” behind the Affordable Care Act, and if his problem is merely its “mechanism” for carrying out those philosophical goals, Brown replied: “Absolutely,” before reiterating that the law is a disaster.
New Hamsphire recently moved forward with its version of the Medicaid expansion. Brown supports repeal — which would do away with the expansion — and yet to my knowledge, he has not taken a position directly on the expansion when asked. Repeal would scrap Obamacare’s consumer protections and other efforts to expand coverage. Brown (who supported Romneycare in Massachusetts) appears to think federal reform should be repealed and replaced with state level reform. Until he says otherwise, that seems to mean he doesn’t envision a federal “replace” plan.
Brown’s comments are the latest in a trend we’ve already seen: Republican Senate candidates endorsing Obamacare’s general goals, while claiming the law should be done away with and replaced with something that does some of the same things. North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis says that of course he supports protecting people with preexisting conditions, just not with Obamacare. Tom Cotton and Terri Lynn Land, the GOP Senate candidates in Arkansas and Michigan, are both refusing to take a clear position on the Medicaid expansions in their states even as they mouth nice noises about expanding health care to those who need it.
This strategy — call for repeal to keep the GOP base happy, while insisting on support for the law’s goals, to avoid alienating moderates — relies on keeping the “replace” part vague. As Jonathan Cohn has explained, there just isn’t any real policy space for an alternative to Obamacare that accomplishes what the law does, and Republicans are not willing to embrace the tradeoffs necessary to realizing its goals in any case. It’s certainly possible that GOP Senate candidates may get away with this dance and that Republicans could win the Senate in spite of its obvious flaws. But Brown’s interview suggests the possibility that it could prove harder and harder to sustain as these Senate races heat up. After all, he has openly professed support for health reform’s goals. So you’d think he’d come under some media pressure to explain how, precisely, he would accomplish them. Is the above answer really going to cut it in the crucible of a hard-fought Senate race?
Of course, as Brian Beutler has noted, it’s on Dems to force Republicans to publicly account for the true implications of their actual stance, which is to do away with the law’s benefits for millions and replace it with nothing. And in that regard, Dems have something working on their side: Nobody believes there is any Republican alternative to Obamacare.
* OPINION ON OBAMACARE SHIFTING? Veteran Dem pollster Stan Greenberg and Democracy Corps are set to release new polling today that purports to find that opinion on Obamacare is shifting in key House districts across the country, and Sam Stein has an advance look:
The poll, which was conducted by Democracy Corps in battleground congressional districts and shared in advance with The Huffington Post, shows 52 percent of respondents want to “implement and fix” the 2010 health care reform law versus 42 percent who want to “repeal and replace” it. Those numbers were 49 percent to 45 percent, respectively, in the firm’s December poll. The favorable trend toward Obamacare has been witnessed not just in Democratic districts but also in Republican districts.
Whatever you think of this poll, the significance here is that it could give Dems a bit more confidence to go at the GOP repeal stance a bit more directly.
* LANDRIEU UP ON THE AIR ON ENERGY: Embattled Senator Mary Landrieu is up with a very effective new spot featuring a Republican owner of a boat-building factory who tells the camera: “Louisiana can’t afford to lose Mary Landrieu. She’s chairman of the Energy Committee — the most powerful position a person can have for Louisiana. It means more boats, more jobs, and more oil and gas.”
The spot is a reminder of how central Landrieu’s chairmanship — and her positions on energy in general — will be in making the case (crucial to her reelection chances) that Landrieu is tough and independent enough to stand up to Pelosi-Reid-Obummer national Democrats in fighting for the state.
* KAY HAGAN FACES VERY TOUGH MIDTERM ELECTORATE: Reality check of the day for Dems: Nate Cohn crunches the numbers and finds Kay Hagan facing a very tough situation, noting she relied heavily on young voters and minorities to win amid a 2008 Obama-landslide electorate, groups that will see a steep dropoff this fall:
North Carolina might be the state where Democrats suffer the most from low midterm turnout. The state is divided between older, culturally Southern and conservative voters, and younger, more diverse and more liberal voters, especially around the Research Triangle and Charlotte. In presidential elections, those two groups fight nearly to a draw. In midterm elections, when older voters turn out at much higher rates than younger ones, the Republicans have a big advantage.
All indications are that Democrats are well aware that the “midterm dropoff” is the most important problem they face, not just in North Carolina, but everywhere; hence plans to invest $60 million in turnout machinery.
* GOP ESTABLISHMENT LOOKING SOLID IN PRIMARIES: The Wall Street Journal has a useful overview of the coming May primaries, concluding that establishment-backed candidates are on track to prevail in most contests, meaning Republicans will likely have their strongest candidates and incumbents in general elections.
Dems are looking for a few breaks here — Thom Tillis getting forced into a primary runoff in North Carolina; a Tea Partyer winning the nomination in Georgia — but for now, all signs are that Republicans may well avoid the disastrous primary outcomes that plagued them in 2012.
* A HOUSE IMMIGRATION BILL BY AUGUST? The number four in the House GOP leadership, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is now on record suggesting Republicans may act on immigration reform before summer recess, claiming: I believe there is a path that we get a bill on the floor by August.”
So perhaps there’s still a window for action after the primaries but before the House leaves town — the point at which Obama may find himself under overwhelming pressure to act if Republicans haven’t, which would probably kill the chances of reform until 2017. Maybe someone should convey Rodgers’ comments to John Boehner.
* LABOR PLANS PUSH ON MINIMUM WAGE: With a Senate vote on the minimum wage hike set for this week, AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka is out with a new video urging lawmakers to vote for the increase, noting that it will “grow the economy,” is “economically and morally right, and is a “women’s issue.” However, Democrats expect to fall short.
One thing to watch for: If the vote fails, the chatter will increase about a potential “compromise” hike to $9.00 per hour, rather than $10.25. But there are no signs that any Republicans (save Susan Collins) would support even the smaller raise, and at any rate, that risks losing progressive Senators, so it looks like a non-starter.
* AND ANOTHER DEM ON OFFENSE OVER OBAMACARE: This can’t be true, right? The Sun Sentinel has an interesting look at how Democrat Charlie Crist is fully embracing Obamacare in his campaign for governor, even as GOP incumbent Rick Scott has run $4 million worth of ads hitting him over it:
“I don’t shy away from it. I don’t back away from it. I don’t apologize for it. It’s the right thing to do,” Crist said during a recent stop in Palm Beach County.
The story notes that the politics of Obamacare are “not clear cut” — it’s good to see more and more folks taking note of this — and observes that even if the law motivates the Republicans base like nothing else, embracing it could boost enthusiasm among Dems.