Sunday, September 6, 2009

Will Health Care Reform Impact the 2010 Midterm Election?

Many political prognosticators - myself included - have speculated that conservative opposition to any sort of health care reform will strengthen the Republican party's base, allowing the GOP to gain Congressional seats in the upcoming 2010 midterm election. Historically, midterm elections have turned out favorably for the opposition/minority party, even in the absence of a catalyst issue such as health care. Furthermore, the current situation is reminiscent of 1994; a time when Republicans rallied against universal health care and government largess in general to command a large victory in that year's midterm election. The most recent polling data also provides empirical evidence that the public is growing increasingly dissatisfied with the President's push for health care reform. Recent Rasmussen polls indicate the following:
  • 40% of voters say deficit reduction should be the President's #1 priority, versus 21% who think health care should be #1.
  • 68% of voters say that health care reform legislation is likely to increase the federal budget deficit.
  • 54% of voters say that a tax cut for the middle class is more important than any health care reform spending.
The last decade has shown us that Republicans barely possess a modicum of fiscal discipline. The GOP has however, through it's criticisms of $10MM portions of $780B pieces of legislation, positioned itself as the Party of deficit warriors. I'm not exactly sure how the GOP can make this claim, given that Clinton is the only modern-era President to actually run budget surpluses; perhaps rhetoric is more important than the facts. This strange reality, combined with the fact that more Americans now disapprove of President Obama than approve of him ( 49% approval latest Rasmussen poll), should logically translate into a strong Republican showing in 2010. When you zoom into district-specific polling data however, it appears that Democrats may emerge from the midterm election with even wider majorities in both the Senate and House.

In the Senate, there are seven seats that could realistically go to either Party; five of those are currently occupied by Republicans. As we get closer to election time, I'd predict that Harry Reid (D-NV) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) will be added to the list of imperiled incumbents. Still though, Democrats are in a position to gain one, or possibly two Senate seats. The other "toss-up" seats, as determined by polling data collected by CQ, are:
  • Dodd (D-Connecticut)
  • Burris (D-Illinois)
  • Bunning (R-Kentucky)
  • Bond (R-Missouri)
  • Burr (R-North Carolina)
  • Gregg (R-New Hampshire)
  • Voinovich (R-Ohio)
In the House of Representatives, only three districts are presently legitimate "toss-ups"; Minnick (D-Idaho), Kratavil (D-Maryland), and McHugh (R-New York). On the cusp of being classified an at risk district however, are the seats occupied by Kirk (R-Illinois), Gerlach (R-Pennsylvania), and Melancon (D-Louisiana). That being said, the current calculus would indicate no net change in the political composition of the House.

The wild card for 2010 may still be based upon the final outcome of the health care debate; most importantly, the perceptions of swing-district voters with regards to whether their representative has cast a health care vote that is in their best interest. This dynamic may be exacerbated in the event Democrats resort to a budget reconciliation procedure to pass health reform legislation by a majority vote. Nevertheless, the current "furor" over health care reform has done little to change the potential outcome of the 2010 midterm election. Sphere: Related Content

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