Caution on the generic ballot, Palin's presidential plans, Obamacare drags down the Dems, and more...
6:30 AM, Sep 2, 2010 • By JAY COST
(6) Health care. Nate Silver and Jonathan Chait disagree with my recent assessment that the health care law has been a factor in the political decline of the Democrats. Both of them make essentially the same point: you can't prove it! Well...yeah! Absent a poll asking people if their main reason for opposition to the Democrats is health care, the best we can do is make a circumstantial argument.* This kind of argumentation happens all the time, especially over at FiveThirtyEight: Every time Silver offers up a statistical correlation, he's making a circumstantial argument. Nothing wrong with that. And while correlation does not necessitate causation (and all that jazz), there is a very strong circumstantial argument to be made here. Consider the contrary assertion: The president and the Democrats' numbers dropped sharply between Memorial Day and Labor Day of last year, right when the health care debate heated up, then declined again between November and December as each chamber passed their versions of it; yet while the bills were manifestly unpopular, it was not a reason for the decline. Does that really make sense?
For his part, Silver says that my argument is "underdetermined" but also that it's "implausible that (health care) hasn't played some role." I suppose that both of these statements could be true at the same time, but that really requires some nuance, doesn't it?
I could bore you with more polling data to back up my argument, or we could just let Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) break the tie:
Wyden is up for reelection this year. So far, he looks fairly safe. But it is peculiar, isn't it? An incumbent Democrat up for reelection is petitioning to get his state waived from one of the major provisions in the bill.
Somebody needs to tell Senator Wyden that the argument that health care has hurt his party's prospects is underdetermined!
In all seriousness, we can look to the actions of politicians to get a sense of the political effects of health care reform. Are Republicans running against it? Yes. Are Democrats in vulnerable districts running in support of it? Not really. Are some Democrats even running away from it? Yes. Is there a strong correlation between House Democrats who voted no and McCain's share of the district vote? Oh, most definitely.
* In July, Democracy Corps did actually ask people why they disapproved of the president, allowing them to give their own answer. Guess what item was in a statistical tie for number one? (Hint: It rhymes with "realth rare.")
(7) NRSC to outspend DSCC in Illinois. This item from The Hill caught my eye:
A largely-unnoticed development in this campaign season is that the NRCC -- after several cycles of falling far behind the DSCC -- has caught back up in the race for dollars. The DSCC has lots of places to defend, and it looks like they have been forced to make some tough choices.
(8) A Burr in the GOP's saddle? PPP shows Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) pulling some weak numbers against Democrat Elaine Marshall, besting her by just 43-38. My former colleague at RealClearPolitics, Sean Trende, opines:
Indeed. North Carolina has long been one of the most diverse states of the South, being one of the few places in the old Confederacy that still had sizeable Republican support (in the west). The Tar Heel state was also a rare Southern exception in that it invested in education and technology much sooner than the rest of the region. It retains a great deal of diversity to this day. The inevitable problem for any senator is that he or she has to harmonize the interests of the voters. The more diverse those voters are, the harder that is to do. Burr has long had trouble with this task, and he's lucky that he's up for reelection in a cycle that is so favorable to his own party.
Jay Cost is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.