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PW logo Reid Will Put Public Option to Vote On the Pursuit of Olympia Snowe
Christie's Attacks on Daggett Seem to be Working Rasmussen Replies
Hoffman Takes the Lead? What's Up With Rasmussen?

News from the Votemaster

Republican Split in NY-23 Becomes a Chasm     Permalink

An otherwise sleepy special election in the sprawling NY-23 congressional district hard by the Canadian border has become the main event in next week's election, overshadowing the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. The battle to capture the seat that opened up when John McHugh (R) resigned to become Secretary of the Army has fractured the Republican party badly. The Republican nominee, assemblywoman Deirdre "Dede" Scozzafava, was chosen by the 11 Republican county chairman in the district with an eye to winning the election in this swing (R+1) district. She is pro choice and pro gay marriage, something many area conservatives cannot stomach so they are supporting the Conservative Party's candidate, local businessman, Doug Hoffman. But now many high-profile Republicans are now also supporting Hoffman against the NRCC and the Republican establishment. These include former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, former House majority leader Dick Armey, former senators Rick Santorum and Fred Thompson, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Numerous conservative organizations including the Club for Growth and the Wall Street Journal also support Hoffman.

If this split results in newbie businessman Bill Owens (D) winning, an increasingly likely possibility given a recent poll showing Owens leading Scozzafava 35% to 30% (with Hoffman at 23%), all hell will break out within the Republican party. Conservatives will see this as a victory and say to the party establishment: "If you nominate moderates, we will make sure that you lose" to which the party establishment will reply: "If we run only true-blue conservatives, we will be a minority forever." It would be as if Ralph Nader's supporters tried to blackmail the Democrats with: "If you don't run extreme left candidates like Nader, we will see to it that you lose." But with Florida 2000 still fresh in Democrats' minds, nothing like this has happened.

Gubernatorial Races: Republican in Virginia, New Jersey Tied     Permalink

In Virginia, there is a straight-up choice between a Republican and a Democrat and the Republican, Bob McDonnell is way ahead. According to a Newport University poll McDonnell is ahead of Democrat Creigh Deeds 45% to 31%. It is hard to see how Deeds can pull this one out of the fire, and national Democrats are already starting to blame Deeds for running a poor campaign and not following their advice.

In New Jersey, it is a tossup, with a Monmouth University poll released last week putting both Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and Chris Christie (R) at 39% each and independent Chris Daggett at 14%. Daggett is hurting Christie more than he is hurting Corzine, and a last minute surge by Daggett could doom Christie. On the other hand, if Daggett collapses, Christie could win.

All Quiet on the Health-Care Front     Permalink

It is quiet on the health-care front in Congress, as in, the calm before the storm. Computer programmers often say that finding the last 10% of the bugs takes 90% of the time. So is it with votes on health care. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has said he is closing in on the 60 votes he needs to invoke cloture and pass a bill. Trouble is, those last couple of votes are those of conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) and getting them will take all his powers of persuasion. The fight is mostly about the public option--a government run insurance scheme for a tiny fraction of the population starting in 2013 that both supporters and opponents see as potential baby step towards a single-payer system.

The White House has been conspicuously silent on its preferences. Publicly, President Obama has said he favors a public option, but he has been unwilling to crack heads to make it happen. For example, he could talk to waverers and say: "Either you get on aboard with this bill now or we are going to use the budget reconciliation process (which requires 51 votes rather than 60) and you will get a bill you really hate." But there has been nary a peep from the White House. Most likely, the calculation there is that if any bill at all passes, the Democrats will be able to crow about it and the contents don't matter. However, that could be a major miscalculation since health care affects everyone. While almost nobody has any idea of what, say, a nuclear missile shield is all about, everyone has a very good idea of what health care is all about. If a bill passes and almost nothing changes for most people, it will be tough for the Democrats to sell that in the 2010 elections as a landmark achievement. No matter what is in the bill, Republicans will say that it is socialized medicine and will bankrupt the country. Unless the Democrats can show that the bill actually helps people, the Republican attacks may work. For this reason, some Democrats are pushing for key provisions of the bill to kick in before the 2010 elections.

Also noteworthy here is that if Obama is not willing to confront the insurance companies directly, what is going to happen later? In the infinite scheme of things, insurance companies are small potatoes compared to the opponents he is going to get late this year or early next year when financial reform pits him against the banks and stopping global warming means he his fighting the oil and coal companies. These are far bigger players and will flight tooth and nail to block reform. Actually, the insurance companies really like many aspects of the health bill (especially the part about 40 million new customers). The banks and energy companies like absolutely zero about the proposed reforms. If his laid-back style works now, he may try it again next year but if it fails now, he may be at a loss what to do next year. While many of supporters had hoped (dreamed?) that he was the reincarnation of Lyndon Johnson, it is clear that is not true. In any event, the next week may be critical as the Senate bill gradually emerges.

Over in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that she has the necessary 218 votes to get her bill (with a public option) passed. If the House bill has a public option and the Senate one does not, the horse trading in conference will reach a frenetic pitch. If both bills have a public option, then some kind of public option will be in the final bill. Right now, everything is possible. This could be the key week though.

The Washington Post has an interesting article about how the current debate has missed a valuable source of information--how other wealthy countries organize their health care. While many people dismiss the rest of the world as "socialized medicine" only a handful of countries (notably England, New Zealand, and Cuba) have anything as socialized as the U.S. Veterans Administration system. The article exposes five myths that many Americans believe about the rest of the world:

  • Everyone else has socialized medicine--not true, e.g., the Swiss and Dutch systems are 100% private
  • Care is rationed in other countries--no, patients have far more choices abroad
  • Foreign systems are bloated bureaucracies--again no, they are much more efficient than the U.S.
  • Cost controls stifle innovation--no, hip replacements are a French invention, for example
  • Health insurance has to be cruel--no again, foreign insurance companies pay bills with no arguments

Definitely worth reading. Especially by members of Congress, but that seems unlikely.

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