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Morning Jay: Dem Triage, White House Partisanship, and more...

6:30 AM, Sep 6, 2010 • By JAY COST
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In other words, if you disagree with the president, it's evidence that something is wrong with you.

Is it any shock that this would inflame passions on the right, and further degrade the political discourse? 

3. House Polls. SurveyUSA has some brutal numbers coming out of WA-2 (Bellingham, Everett).  Incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen trails GOP challenger John Koster by 4.  This is a district that Barack Obama won by 14 points. John Kerry won it by 4.

These numbers explain why we're getting "Dem triage" stories when it's still 90 degrees in the nation's capital. Think of it this way: Obama won WA-2 by 14 points. A poll by a non-partisan, reputable firm shows it at +4 GOP, for a total swing of 18 points.  Apply that to the 435 districts across the country, and you have over 100 Democratic House seats in potential jeopardy.

Meanwhile, in VA-9 (Bristol, Radford) SuveyUSA finds incumbent Democrat Rick Boucher holding a 10-point lead over challenger Morgan Griffith, 50-40.  That's down from a 52-39 lead in mid-July.  The difference might simply be statistical noise, but it is possible that Griffith is closing the gap.  Griffith is no fringe candidate.  He is the Republican leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, and as of late July he had about $300k in the bank. Boucher voted against health care reform, but he supported cap-and-trade, which is noteworthy because about 18,000 people in the district have jobs tied to the mining industry.  If Griffith can raise the dough, this should be a tight race down the stretch.  

4. Democrats Run from Health Care. It has been interesting to watch supporters of health care struggle to explain the bill's political consequence.  At various times, I've seen different rhetorical strategies:

-Promote the fact that individual items, like the "public option," are ostensibly popular.

-Emphasize that the unpopularity is mostly about the messy process, and that when voters appreciate the benefits, they will come around.

-Selectively cite polls that are notably good for the reform, like the Kaiser poll.

-Most recently, argue that the bill's massive, sustained unpopularity has not contributed to Democratic decline, or at least that it can't be "proven."

Ultimately, polling data is going to remain sufficiently "ambiguous" so that, if the will to believe is strong enough, it will "vindicate" the view that health care has been neutral, if not positive.

The tie -- to the extent that there is one -- should be broken by the actions of strategic politicians, the ones whose jobs depend upon the question.  And their actions point pretty unequivocally to the idea that health care is a midterm problem for Democrats:

A handful of House Democrats are making health care reform an election year issue — by running against it.

At least five of the 34 House Democrats who voted against their party’s health care reform bill are highlighting their “no” votes in ads back home. By contrast, party officials in Washington can’t identify a single House member who’s running an ad boasting of a “yes” vote — despite the fact that 219 House Democrats voted in favor of final passage in March.

One Democratic strategist said it would be “political malfeasance” to run such an ad now.

I respect many of the commentators who have argued that health care reform hasn't contributed to the Democratic malaise, but that thesis becomes more and more strained every day.

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