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Obamacare: It's Not Over

Medicare Advantage and Massachusetts are two reasons for hope.

11:56 AM, Jan 7, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The estimable Allahpundit is pretty fatalistic about Obamacare: Nancy Pelosi says the House and Senate are "very close" to a deal, Obama's weighing in to pressure House Dems to accept something close to the Senate bill, you can't rely on Blanche Lincoln to stop it--and, so, "Dude, I think it's over."

But maybe not. For at least two reasons. While the Democrats are probably going to take care of the Cornhusker Kickback problem raised by Lincoln by giving it to all 50 states, they have a much bigger challenge with Gator Aid--the deal that nullifies the Medicare Advantage cuts for much of Florida. They can't get rid of those Medicare Advantage cuts--they need the "savings" to make the legislation look even plausibly budget neutral. And the Florida deal just calls attention to the fact that the legislation cuts--really cuts--Medicare next year, in a way that will be visible this year when seniors try to renew their Medicare Advantage policies--a popular program that lots of seniors use. Watch for Medicare Advantage to move front and center in the health care debate--and its centrality will make it tougher for Pelosi to flip the handful of House Dems she needs from No to Yes, to make up for the likely loss of Bart Stupak and a few principled pro-lifers.

Another grounds for hope is Massachusetts. I don't want to get expectations up--but I've looked at a lot of data, some of it not public--and Scott Brown really could win. If outside groups can even the resource match-up and spend the money intelligently, I think it's now a 1 in 4 proposition. If that happens, with the loss of 60 votes in the Senate, I don't think the bill would even get back to the Senate--House Dems could tell Pelosi they don't need to walk this plank (again), and that they should--in accord with the wishes of the voters of Massachusetts (!)--start over. And it's by no means out of the question that a close race in Massachusetts also leads to this judgment by enough House Dems.

I'm a pessimist, generally--though maybe not in Allahpundit's eeyore-like class. But in this case, I say, keep hope alive!

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