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The Daily 202: Democrats playing offense on Obamacare in Kentucky

This portrait of former Speaker Dennis Hastert was removed from its prominent display just off the House floor following his guilty plea in federal court last week connected to illegal financial transactions that were designed as hush money. It is one of Paul Ryan’s first official acts as Speaker. In this file photo, Hastert speaks at the July 2009 unveiling ceremony. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)


LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The outgoing Democratic governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, used an executive order to expand Medicaid and create a state-run exchange under Obamacare. Half a million people, around a quarter of the state’s population, got coverage as a result.

Democrats have aggressively highlighted this in commercials and on the stump leading up to today’s off-year gubernatorial election, suggesting that the Republicans would “callously” eliminate the exchange if they won. It’s a stark contrast to the defensive posture that Democrats largely took on the issue in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014.

Kentucky has seen the largest drop in its uninsured rate of any state in the country. It’s currently 9 percent, down from 20.4 percent before Obamacare, according to the Louisville NPR affiliate. Open enrollment for next year began over the weekend, and the Kaiser Family Foundation says there are 285,000 uninsured Kentuckians who could still enroll using the so-called Kynect program.

GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin has backtracked on repeal since he won a four-way primary in May. In the spring, he said he would “absolutely” reverse Beshear’s executive order “immediately.” In the final debate of the race, he suggested he would narrow eligibility to below 138 percent of the poverty line and try to get participants to have some “skin in the game,” in essence forcing people to pay some kind of deductible.

Polling shows the Medicaid expansion playing to Democrats’ advantage: The final Bluegrass Poll put Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway up 5 points. The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Sam Youngman reported that Bevin’s opposition to the expansion “appears to be hurting him”: 54 percent said they want the state’s next governor to maintain the expansion; 24 percent say they would like to see it repealed; 22 percent were not sure. One-third of Republicans support maintaining the expansion.

For years, Gov. Beshear has publicly urged national Democrats to run on the health care law, regardless of whether they’re from a red or a blue state. “You can tell there’s a pent-up demand and a craving for access to health care,” he said in an interview here. “People came out of the woodwork in droves wanting to find about this. … This is a winner for our people, and because it’s a winner for our people, it’s going to be a winner politically.” Beshear has been publicly attacking Bevin for saying he’d roll back his signature initiative. “He understands that this is now a popular issue for Kentuckians and he’s trying to somehow find a way out of it.”

Expressing confidence that Conway will win today, Beshear told me: “In 2016, I predict the Democratic nominee will make this a major issue and will pound the Republicans into the dust with it.”

— But, but, but: The failure of the Kentucky Health Cooperative is a red flag that is giving Republicans fodder to argue that the exchange is not sustainable in the long-term, especially when federal money dries up. “More than a third of the 23 nonprofit health plans created under Obamacare with $2.4 billion in federal loan dollars have collapsed, and most experts predict more failures on the horizon,” Politico reported last week. “South Carolina’s co-op became the ninth to fail, following similar crashes in Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska and New York. … The Kentucky plan dominated exchange enrollment during the first two years of operations, capturing roughly 60 percent of customers … Those Kentuckians will now have to scramble to find new coverage during the open-enrollment period.” Beshear called the collapse of the co-op “a little inconvenient” but not indicative of broader problems: “It doesn’t mean anything long-term for Kynect.”

— Other red states are expanding Medicaid, as well: Just yesterday, Montana became the 30th state to expand the program under Obamacare, giving 70,000 more people access to health insurance. Once these folks get insurance, it becomes politically untenable to take it away. It’s more evidence, if any was needed, that Obamacare, for better or worse, is not going away, no matter who the president is in 2017 or what happens today in Kentucky.


— An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Hillary Clinton slightly expanding her national lead. She gets 62 percent of Democrats, to 31 percent for Sanders. Martin O’Malley received just 3 percent. Their last poll has Clinton up 58 to 33.

  • Marco Rubio has popped from 4 percent last month to 13 percent now in a Monmouth University poll of New Hampshire. It’s his best score in a poll of that state.
  • PPP, the Democratic firm, released an Iowa poll showing that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are essentially tied (22-21), with Ted Cruz on the rise (14) and Rubio at 10. Bobby Jindal (6) now leads Jeb Bush (5) among Iowa caucusgoers…

— The company constructing the Keystone XL pipeline asked the State Department to halt its review, potentially delaying the final decision on the project until after President Obama leaves office. Juliet Eilperin has the latest on the zombie project.

— New books pull back curtain on Vatican. Catholic Church authorities arrested two officials yesterday, accusing them of leaking damaging internal information for two books coming out this week. The Post obtained an early copy of one overnight. It highlights lavish spending by the cardinals, including a $26,400 helicopter ride taken by the former Vatican secretary of state, as well as numerous “suspect accounts” that still exist in the Vatican Bank (even though the church has said that practice stopped). The AP got ahold of the second book, which has Pope Francis ripping into officials over millions of euros in lost revenue and a break-in at the Vatican.

Ahmed Chalabi died of a heart attack at 73. The former deputy prime minster of Iraq, who strongly advocated for the U.S. to invade the country, gave some of the most-cited false intelligence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

— John Kerry urged Tajikistan’s president not to go too far in cracking down on political Islam and religious beliefs. Yesterday, on his trip across the so-called Stans, he also warned Kazakhstan that repressing political opponents only invokes more extremism. (Carol Morello is on the trip.)


  1. A member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Yale allegedly refused to allow dark-skinned students to enter a Halloween party, telling them: “White girls only.” (Susan Svrluga)
  2. Volkswagen allegedly also used devices to cheat air pollution in its luxury vehicles, such as Porsches and Audi’s, escalating the scandal that began in September when the German carmaker copped to illegally installed devices on lower-tier cars. (Reuters)
  3. The Russian government and the airline that operated the plane that went down over the Sinai Peninsula this weekend are publicly sparring over the cause of of the crash. (Andrew Roth and Ashley Halsey III)
  4. The Defense Department spent almost $43 million to build an LNG gas station in Afghanistan that may not even be usable. (Huffington Post)
  5. El Niño could kill many homeless people this year because they refuse to leave their living quarters near storm drains in Los Angeles. (Peter Holley)
  6. Taco Bell fired a corporate employee who was captured on video hitting and pulling the hair of his Uber driver. (Los Angeles Times)
  7. A rancher who bought almost 1,800 horses from the federal government sent them to slaughterhouses instead of finding safe places for the animals to live. (Lisa Rein)
  8. The Social Security Administration overpaid disabled workers who went back to work by $11 billion during the past nine years. (Lisa Rein)
  9. The U.S. Department of Education ruled that an Illinois school district violated anti-discrimination laws when it prevented a transgender girl from using a girls’ locker room even though she plays on a girls’ sports team. (New York Times)
  10. Ohio could legalize marijuana with a ballot initiative today.


  1. Donald Trump’s campaign said the billionaire will negotiate with television networks directly to set the rules and agendas of upcoming presidential debates, undercutting efforts by his Republican rivals to get consensus and leverage against the stations. Carly Fiorina and John Kasich are also not involved with the rest of the group. (Robert Costa, David Weigel and Paul Farhi)
  2. Jeb Bush said the RNC should go through with the Telemundo debate, which the RNC canceled last week to retaliate against CNBC (NBC owns both networks). (Sean Sullivan)
  3. Cory Gardner, the freshman Republican senator from Colorado, endorsed Marco Rubio. (Fox News)
  4. Hillary Clinton met with the mothers of Michael BrownTrayvon Martin and Tamir Rice in Chicago, privately outlining to them her plan for instituting stricter gun laws and changing the criminal justice system. (CNN)
  5. President Obama wants making progress on issues of racial inequality and injustice to be a big part of his legacy. (NBC Nightly News interview)
  6. Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) announced he’ll retire at the end of this term, vacating a safe Republican seat. His chief of staff, Justin Grabelle, immediately announced he’ll run. (Roll Call)
  7. Rick Santorum is attacking Ted Cruz as soft on immigration as he campaigns in Iowa, citing his support for H-1B visas. (Quad-Cities Times)
  8. Jeb replaced his campaign’s Chief Operating Officer. Christine Ciccone, who left with the shakeup, has been replaced by Janan Grissom. (Politico)
  9. Haley Barbour, the former RNC chair and Mississippi governor, praises Bush’s e-book and leadership skills during hurricanes in an op-ed for today’s Miami Herald.
  10. Sean Parker, the Napster co-founder, appears to be the lead financial backer of a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in California, likely to be on the ballot in Nov. 2016. (AP)
  11. California boasts both the richest man and the poorest man in Congress, the Los Angeles Times notes: Darrell Issa is worth at least $254.7 million, and David Valadao has $10 million in credit lines (compared to $1.3 million in assets).
  12. Philadelphia politician Dwight Evans will challenge embattled Rep. Chaka Fattah, facing corruption charges, in next year’s Democratic primary. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  13. Bill Cosby could be forced to testify in Janice Dickinson’s defamation lawsuit against the comedian who has been accused of several rapes. (AP)
  14. LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 25,00 points, accomplishing the feat at 30 years and 307 days old, a few months faster than Kobe Bryant. (ESPN)
  15. Larry Lessig, the Harvard professor trying to build support for campaign finance reform, dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary.


Democrats prepare for another shutdown showdown in December,” by Kelsey Snell: It is riders, not funding numbers, that could cause the problem. Specifically, Democrats say they won’t allow a budget to go through that cuts off any funding for Planned Parenthood. It could make for a tense couple of weeks.

— Along the migrant trail, pressure grows to close Europe’s open borders,” by Griff White: “With Slovenia behind them and Austria just ahead, the asylum seekers shoved at the metal barriers blocking their path and chanted a plea into the smoky night air: ‘We want to go!’ Nearly 1,000 people had been waiting all day for the border crossing to open, penned into a no-man’s land by twitchy troops armed with pistols and assault rifles who met requests for food or water with stern commands and glares icy enough to match the fast-falling temperature. ‘We’ve already spent two nights outside,’ said Galia Ali, pointing to her severely disabled 8-year-old son, who lay shivering on a blanket near a dwindling fire. ‘If we’re still here in the morning, he’ll be dead’ Hours later, the barriers were lifted, and the migrants surged into Austria. But up and down the route being traveled by a historic number of migrants this year as they seek new lives in Europe, pressure is building to close the continent’s cherished open borders for good.”

An alarming cross-segment of white middle-aged Americans has seen its death rate jump since 1999 because of drugs, alcohol and suicide, a shocking reversal rarely seen by developed nations. (Lenny Bernstein and Joel Achenbach)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ — Curated by Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck):

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Social media grapples with Ben Carson’s new frontrunner status. Trump continues to dominate the media chatter, but the presidential race was atwitter with talk of Carson leading in polls out yesterday. Here’s the word cloud of his mentions, via our analytics partners at Zignal Labs:

See how Carson mentions spiked after the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll posted:

–Pictures of the day:

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) got really into Halloween this year (we totally missed this last month):

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) kept supporting his Mets even in defeat:

–Tweets of the day:

Bush communications director Tim Miller sought to lower expectations about the speed of his boss’s attempted turnaround:

Donald Trump, besides rolling out his new book later this morning at Trump Tower, is spending a good chunk of this week in New York rehearing for “Saturday Night Live”:

A reality check from a former top Obama adviser:

Finally, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) got a note of congratulations from President Obama for winning the National Press Club spelling bee:

–Instagrams of the day:

The Sanders campaign posted a picture of vintage Bernie:

A family of Ben Carson supporters dressed up in Carson-themed Halloween costumes:

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) took in the final World Series game with their spouses:


— New York Times, “Before the stump, Ben Carson took the stand as an expert witness,” by Steve Eder and Pam Belluck: “Fifteen years before the Baltimore police were accused of causing the death of Freddie Gray, the city was taken to court by another black man, one who had been paralyzed from the waist down after being tackled by an officer. The man, Horace Muhammad, claimed that the police had manhandled him and that paramedics had mishandled his care before he got to the hospital. At the trial, the city’s lawyers brought out the perfect expert witness to vouch for the paramedics: an internationally renowned surgeon and a revered local celebrity, Dr. Benjamin S. Carson. During two hours on the stand, Dr. Carson held the jury in thrall with careful medical explanations of spinal injuries, a quietly self-assured tone and even one reference to God as he undercut Mr. Muhammad’s claims. Only the police had caused Mr. Muhammad’s paralysis, Dr. Carson said. The paramedics had not hurt him — they had helped him. … Dr. Carson’s testimony seems intriguingly resonant now, as he campaigns for president in a country shaken by a series of cases in which black men have died after encounters with the police, including Mr. Gray, who died in April of a spinal cord injury sustained in police custody. It also provides a window into Dr. Carson’s stature in the community at the time, his understated confidence, and the way he was viewed by African-Americans whose lives were markedly less prosperous and accomplished.”

USA Today, “How Trump is helping Clinton: Latino mobilization takes place,” by Heidi M. Pryzbyla: “Clinton, who captured the majority of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 primaries against President Obama, is once again stepping up efforts to control that demographic by having March Anthony and Salma Hayek use social media to pitch for her, as well as having an “all-Latina phone bank” is dial up Nevada’s Latino women.”

— New York Times, “Ad helped Chris Christie win a race, but then he had to apologize,” by Matt Flegenheimer: Two decades ago, Chris Christie was forced to apologize to two local New Jersey politicians after he incorrectly stated in a television ad that they were under investigation by the country prosecutor, when in reality, it was a “procedural follow-up.” After easily beating them in the race for a freeholder position, Christie, in his court-ordered mea culpa, said, “I am writing to express my sincere apology to both of you and your families.”


Hillary: Assault at Spring Valley High can’t be justified. From the Huffington Post: “Clinton joined SiriusXM … to discuss criticism of her criminal justice platform as well as the black teenager who was thrown from her desk by a school resource officer in Columbia, South Carolina, last week. The Democratic front-runner said she was disturbed by the video of former Spring Valley High School resource officer Ben Fields manhandling a 16-year-old student known only as Shakara … ‘Whatever the facts are, it doesn’t justify behavior like that,” she said.”


Iran MPs: “Death to America” stands despite nuclear deal. From AFP: “A clear majority of Iranian legislators said Monday the Islamic republic will not abandon the slogan of ‘Death to America’ despite its July nuclear accord with world powers. ‘The martyr-nurturing nation of Iran is not at all prepared to abandon the slogan of ‘Death to America’ under the pretext of a nuclear agreement,’ 192 members of Iran’s 290-seat parliament said in a statement carried by state news agency IRNA.”


–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Donald Trump holds a book signing at Trump Tower in New York, N.Y. Hillary Clinton attends town halls in Coralville and Grinnell, Iowa. Jeb Bush campaigns in Lexington, S.C. Ben Carson continues his book tour with stops in Tampa and Lakeland, Fla. Martin O’Malley pushes for stronger gun control in Manchester, Durham and Keene, N.H. John Kasich greets voters in Dubuque, Iowa and Mobile, Ala. 

–On the Hill: The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. The House meets at 10 a.m. for morning business and noon for legislative business, with the first votes expected between 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. This week the House will consider legislation related to a long-term Highway Trust Fund extension, and legislation related to the National Defense Authorization Act.

–At the White House: No public events are scheduled.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “I eat nails when I wake up, then I have breakfast.” — Jeb Bush to Bloomberg‘s Mark Halperin


— Tuesday will be sunny with between 70-75 degrees and lows between 40 and 52. “Nice day all the way! After yesterday’s near-constant cloudy ceiling, we break into serious sunshine with morning temperatures rising fast enough to make you reconsider bringing a jacket,” the Capital Weather Gang reports. “Temperatures should reach the low to middle 70s by afternoon with just very light breezes. Our Indian Summer season is upon us as fantastic, comfortably warm sunny conditions dominate today and most of tomorrow,” the Capital Weather Gang reports. “Some showers intrude on Thursday, but temperatures stay warmer than normal into at least Friday when we have the chance to hit 80 degrees in some parts. A cold front arrives early on Saturday to bring some showers and cooler weather. By Sunday, highs may only manage the 50s.”

— Personnel moves fall apart at two of our city’s biggest institutions: 

  • Contract talks crumbled over the weekend with Bud Black, who the Nationals had tentatively selected to be their new manager, The Post’s James Wagner reports. CBS Sports reports that the Nationals have circled back to the other finalist, Dusty Baker, who last managed the Cincinnati Reds in 2013, and intend to offer him the job.
  • Metro’s year-long search for a new general manager hit another major snag as the transit agency and its top choice for the job, corporate financial expert Neal S. Cohen, called off their contract negotiations and parted ways,” Paul Duggan, Michael Laris and Lori Aratani report. “The agency’s four-member executive committee, which is conducting the search for a new chief executive, gave no reason publicly for the collapse … A Washington-area transportation official said he was told that Cohen — a career financial executive in private industry who has no experience in the public sector — was angry and taken aback by the media scrutiny he has been under since last Wednesday, when reporters learned that he was Metro’s No. 1 candidate for the job.”

D.C. Coast, at 14th and K, will close at the end of the year.

Charles Severance, convicted of murdering three Alexandria residents over an 11-year period, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

— Fairfax County schools eliminated all open-flame science experiments less than a week after a chemistry experiment got out of control and resulted in five students getting burned. (Moriah Balingit, Justin Jouvenal and T. Rees Shapiro)

— A former NSA division chief is expected to plead guilty to beating his 3-year-old son to death. (Dan Morse)


Overheard from a floor staffer on a hot Senate mic at 1:23 a.m. during last week’s budget-related votes: “He better get his ass here, before, they’ve already lost one vote because he’s not here.” Watch:

Rand Paul said he loves Donald Trump and thinks he’s “hilarious” … and that running with him could be an “utter and absolute disaster”:

Usher speaks with Black Lives Matter protesters outside a Hillary Clinton event:

C-SPAN dug up footage of Jeb introducing Marco Rubio on Election Night 2010:

Bush went on the attack against Rubio and Trump yesterday in an attempt to revitalize his campaign. But one woman sitting in his camera shot could not keep her eyes open as he spoke:

On the bright side for Jeb, he has diehard supporters like the woman who put a sticker on her forehead (no video here, just a picture):

Ben Carson spoke about his new book at Washington’s National Press Club: