Byron York analyzes the data and concludes that as an issue, health care was a loser in yesterday’s elections. Most voters didn’t rate it highly as a concern, and those who did were swamped by the vastly greater number who were worried about the economy. I think we could actually go farther than that: independents deserted the Democrats yesterday, and I think a big part of the reason was widespread alarm over the health care takeover that few voters really want.
The hypothesis that health care reform, as an issue, is not just irrelevant but poisonous is supported by these Fabrizio McLaughlin poll data. Admittedly, the questions were phrased to make a point, but the point is one that has rapidly been sinking into voters’ consciousness. For example:
Would you favor or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans if you knew you could be forced off your current health insurance and onto the government-run plan?
Total Favor 17%
Total Oppose 75%
Would you favor or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans if you knew that there was no guarantee that you could keep your current doctor?
Total Favor 20%
Total Oppose 75%
Would you favor or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans if you knew that it could limit the treatments and medications you could have access to?
Total Favor 16%
Total Oppose 80%
You get the picture. Let’s hope Congressional Democrats get the picture, too. Yesterday’s results can only help stimulate misgivings among Dems who worry that supporting the administration’s health care takeover could be political suicide.
At the Examiner, Michael Barone notes that “affluent suburban voters moved sharply toward Republicans in 2009.” We always wondered what high-income voters who went for Obama in 2008 were thinking. Now, apparently, they’re wondering too. Just wait until they’re face to face with a massive tax increase in 2010.
Glenn Reynolds writes in the New York Post that “The Obama magic has faded.”
Republicans, who were prepared to give Obama the benefit of the doubt a year ago, now can’t stand him. Independents who voted for him are deserting in droves. And Democrats don’t seem that happy either.
The good news for Obama is that he doesn’t have to run for re-election for three more years, so he still has a chance to get his feet under him. But for Congress members facing elections in a year — including but not limited to the famous “blue-dog” Democrats — the lesson of this week is that Obama can’t save their seats if the public is unhappy (and, equally, that Obama probably can’t hurt them much, either). So what Obama wants is nice, but it’s what the voters in their districts want that will control.
That makes Obama’s health-care “reform” package look iffy and his other big plans for remaking America look even iffier. With the hope having faded, enthusiasm for change seems much diminished. From a mythic figure, Obama has shrunk to an ordinary politician — and, so far, not an obviously deft one. It’ll be politics as usual from now on, and we can thank Obama, at least, for making politics-as-usual seem not so bad after all …
Finally, a few thoughts on NY 23.
It’s sad that the seat will be filled by a Democrat rather than a Republican. But let’s place the blame where it belongs: on the handful of local GOP functionaries who nominated a bad candidate, and a ridiculously bad Republican, Dede Scozzafava. And, of course, on Ms. Scozzafava herself, who may have swung the election to the Democrat with her last-minute endorsement. Doug Hoffman did more than a creditable job, considering that he was in single digits just a few weeks ago.
Let’s also note the fact that getting rid of “RINOs,” contrary to what seems to be the fervent belief of some conservative activists, does not guarantee victory. Was Hoffman too conservative for the district? Clearly not; if he had been the nominee in the first place and we had not gone through the Scozzafava fiasco, I assume he would have won handily. But it remains a fact that there are districts where the strongest Republican candidate will not necessarily be the most conservative one. There are reasons why the party has become almost extinct in the northeast, and the problem won’t be cured by a steady diet of red-meat conservatives. The Republican Party needs to be a big tent. Just not quite big enough to include Dede Scozzafava.