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Obama Raises the Stakes

If Florida 19 was a referendum on health care, what about HI-1 and PA-12?

1:06 PM, Apr 16, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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At a Democratic fundraiser yesterday, President Obama mocked the Tea Party and downplayed opposition to his health care bill. The president said that conservatives and Republicans had called Tuesday's election to replace retiring Representative Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida, a "referendum" on the health bill. Democrat Ted Deutsch won. "Maybe it was" a referendum, the president said.

Obama Raises the Stakes

As someone who suffers from the heartbreak of epistemic closure and spends a lot of time in the right-wing echo chamber, you'd think I would've heard conservatives call for the movement to rally behind the Republican candidate in this gerrymandered, heavily Democratic district comprising Broward and Palm Beach counties. But I didn't hear any such call, because no conservative or Republican who wasn't related to one of Deutsch's challengers said FL-19 was going to be Obama's Waterloo. Wexler was a seven-term congressman whose district backed Kerry and Obama by 2-to-1 margins. Of course a Democrat was going to replace him. Chris Cillizza runs through some others reasons why this race wasn't a referendum here.

But let's say the president is right. If Florida 19 was a referendum on his health care bill, then surely the upcoming special elections in Hawaii 1 and Pennsylvania 12 will be too. The outcomes in those contests are nowhere as predictable as the outcome this week. But of course, even if the Republicans win one or both of those races, something tells me the president won't admit that the public rejects the signature initiative of his presidency.

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