The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Half of the senators who voted for Obamacare will be gone next year. As will 40 percent of those who opposed it.

We'll give credit to the conservative Washington Examiner for being first out of the gates with an idea that will make Republican political types salivate: Half of the senators who voted for Obamacare won't be in the Senate in 2015. Bloomberg included that in its by-the-numbers recap of the election. And it's true. Sixty senators (58 Democrats, two independents) voted for Obamacare in 2009, and six years later, only 30 will be in the Senate. The subtext is obvious: Obamacare is political poison.

So we must note the corollary. Of the 39 Republicans who voted against the Affordable Care Act (one didn't vote), 24 — 60 percent — will still be in office come January. Which shifts the frame a bit.

There's no question that a number of Democrats were defeated because constituents rejected their politics. How closely those losses are linked to Obamacare is hard to evaluate. Did Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) lose this weekend  because she voted for Obamacare five years ago, or did she lose because the politics in the South have shifted? Odds favor the latter. But more importantly, only eight of the 29 Democrats who backed Obamacare were actually defeated — and five of them were defeated this year, well after their initial vote for the ACA. The rest of the Democrats retired or left the Senate for other reasons.

Here's the breakdown, by party. For those that left office, their replacements are color-coded by party.

There is no question that Democrats have had a bad run since 2009. Only one of the Republicans who left office was replace by a Democrat (and one was replaced by an independent), but 16 of the Democrats were replaced by Republicans. That, broadly, may be because of Obamacare; it's certainly, in large part, because of Obama.

This is another case in which the top line number is much more murky than it at first appears. Obamacare is not the political winner that Democrats hoped and expected it to be. But it's not necessarily the political loser that the Examiner headline might lead you to believe either.

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