January 7, 2010



If anything has become clear in Washington since the beginning of the new year, it is that the aura of inevitably that once surrounded the Democrats’ massive government healthcare takeover has eroded as rapidly as the public approval ratings for the damaging legislation.  Since Democrats triumphed over the crowning piece of their radical agenda in November, they have been faced with strong Republican challengers in districts that were once reliably incumbent-friendly. This turn of events, coupled with the effect of Congressman Parker Griffith’s switch to the House GOP Conference, has led many Congressional Democrats to openly criticize their party leadership and question the political implications of rubber-stamping government-run healthcare.


  • “Rep. Joe Sestak blames Democratic leaders for the plunge in public support for overhauling the health care system, saying Wednesday they failed to defend proposals that helped carry the party to victories in 2008. ‘They said it would be transparent. Why isn’t it?’ said Sestak, a Delaware County Democrat, in a meeting with Tribune-Review editors and reporters. ‘At times, I find the caucus is a real disappointment. We aren’t transparent, not just to the public but at times to the members.’” (Salena Zito and Mike Wereschagin, “Sestak puts blame on Democratic leaders for slipping support,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 01/07/10)


  • “Sen. Ben Nelson said Tuesday it was a mistake for the Obama Administration to take on massive health care reforms in 2009, and suggested efforts would have been better spent addressing the economy..I think it was a mistake to take health care on as opposed to continuing to spend the time on the economy,’ he said.” (Chris Zavadil, “Nelson: We Should Have Waited on Health Care,” Fremont Tribune, 1/6/10)



The Democrats’ backroom healthcare deal is a non-starter with the American public. As one senior Democrat put it, the challenge before Democrats is not only making a sales pitch to their own fractured party, but also to an electorate that is overwhelmingly opposed to the Democrat healthcare agenda. According to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY):


“We really have to be able to sell it,” said Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “Not just to the Democratic caucus, but to the American people.” (Sam Youngman, “Pelosi: Healthcare Vote ‘Possible’ in January,” The Hill, 1/6/10)


The question that remains to be answered: How exactly do Democrats plan to sell a bill that is strongly opposed by the American people in poll after poll?

  • “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% of voters oppose the legislation Opposition remains highest among middle-income Americans.” (“Health Care Reform,” Rasmussen Reports, 1/4/10)
  • “According to the poll, 42 percent of Americans, based on what they’ve read or heard about the bill, support Senate Democrat’s legislationNonetheless, a majority of people questioned in the survey, 56 percent, oppose the bill.” (Paul Steinhauser, “CNN Poll: 6 Point Jump in Support for Health Care Bill,” CNN Political Ticker, 12/21/09)
  • “As the Senate sprints to pass a health-care bill by Christmas, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that those believing President Obama’s health-reform plan is a good idea has sunk to its lowest level. Just 32 percent say it’s a good idea, versus 47 percent who say it’s a bad idea.” (Mark Murray, “NBC Poll: Public Sours on Health Reform,” MSNBC’s First Read, 12/16/09)

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, the emerging face of the party’s pro-life bloc, has alerted party leadership that he will not compromise on stipulations preventing federal funding for abortions. As Democrat leaders attempt to appease the liberal wing of their party, they have effectively invited key ‘Yes’ votes to walk away from supporting final passage.


  • “Mr. Stupak insists that the final bill include his terms, which he says merely reflect current law. If he prevails, he will have won an audacious, counterintuitive victory, forcing a Democratic-controlled Congress to pass a measure that will be hailed as an anti-abortion triumph. If party members do not accept his terms — and many vow they will not — Mr. Stupak is prepared to block passage of the health care overhaul. ‘It’s not the end of the world if it goes down,’ he said over dinner.  He did not sound downbeat about the prospect of being blamed for blocking the long-sought goal of President Obama and a chain of presidents and legislators before him. ‘Then you get the message,’ he continued. ‘Fix the abortion language and bring the bill back.’” (Jodi Kantor, “Democrat Wears Scorn as Medal in Abortion Fight,” New York Times, 01/07/10)

Unsurprisingly, polling shows that Democrat leaders are squaring off not only against their own party but also the American public:

  • Fifty-three percent (53%) of voters favor a ban on abortion coverage in any health insurance plan that receives federal subsidies. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 40% are opposed to such a ban in the proposed health care legislation now before Congress. Those figures include 39% who Strongly Favor it and 26% who are Strongly Opposed. (“53% Favor Abortion Ban in Health Plan,” Rasmussen Reports, 1/3/10)

Not only do Democrats face the prospect of selling their backroom deal to an unwelcoming public, but several key ‘Yes’ votes are now under heavy political fire back home. Many vulnerable Democrats who bowed to their party’s demands during the House healthcare debate now face significant Republican challengers. As fellow Democrat Joe Courtney recently told his colleagues, Democrats face “great political risk” by backing their party’s healthcare deal:

“‘I think it’s a plan that has great political risk for the Democrats,’ said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn. ‘The issue had tremendous potency on the campaign trail in 2008. And frankly, I don’t see any indication that the change of heart that’s occurred among the policy people in the White House has really changed the American people’s hostility to the idea.’” (Teddy Davis, “Democratic Congressman Warns of Voter Backlash if Obama Sticks with Tax on Health Benefits,” ABC News, 1/6/10)

Look for these so-called moderates to seek political cover as they now face serious challenges in their bids for re-election:

  • McKinley to Take on Mollohan in WV-01: “McKinley said he has filed the necessary pre-candidacy papers with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office and will run as a Republican in West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District…‘Our mission is simple – to replace Congressman Mollohan … with a fiscally conservative voice that votes the interests of the 1st District,’ McKinley said.” (Jocelyn King, “McKinley Files to Run,” Wheeling Intelligencer, 1/5/10)
  • Flores to Mount Edwards Challenge in TX-17: “Republicans have landed their favored recruit against Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.), fueling their optimism that the longtime Texas lawmaker representing a conservative Waco district will be a top targets next year.” (Josh Kraushaar, “Republicans Going After Chet Edwards,” Politico, 12/15/09)
  • Barletta Mounts Challenge to Kanjorski in PA-11: Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta is back…The Republican made his announcement in a Web site video Wednesday morning, followed by a conference call with reporters. He criticized the government’s bailout of financial services corporations, business bankruptcies, Democratic health care reform efforts, and politicians who have ‘no accountability and no respect’ for tax dollars.” (“Barletta Challenges Kanjorski Again for Pa. Congressional Seat,” Pocono Record, 12/10/09)
  • Bitz to Challenge Maffei in NY-25: Bitz has a good amount of excitement behind his campaign … both in D.C. and in the district,’ one Republican strategist said. Republicans think Maffei is vulnerable because of his votes in support of big Democratic agenda items like the health care overhaul, cap-and-trade climate change legislation and the stimulus package.(Emily Cadei, “Another GOP Hopeful in NY-25,” CQ-Roll Call, 11/19/09)
  • Caligiuri Joins Bernier in Race Against Murphy in CT-05: “Two Republicans will compete for the nomination in a May 22 convention and possibly an August primary if neither candidate withdraws from the race. The first candidate in the race, former Rep. Rob Simmons aide and Iraq war veteran Justin BernierThe second candidate, state Sen. Sam Caligiuri of Waterbury, was running for the GOP Senate nomination before switching races this month…” (Cook Political Report, 12/17/09)
  • Boswell Earns a Field of Opponents in IA-03: “Zaun, an Urbandale Republican, joins fellow Republicans Jim Gibbons of Des Moines and Dave Funk of Runnells for the 2010 primary… Boswell’s biggest fault is that that he hasn’t listened to his constituents on two key pieces of legislation that would impose stricter environmental rules on power companies and overhaul the health care system.” (“Brad Zaun Launches Campaign; Calls U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell Vulnerable,” Des Moines Register, 12/3/09)
  • Tipton Gets in Race Against Salazar in CO-03: “The contentious healthcare vote earlier this month — when House Democrats approved a massive healthcare reform package — ‘was the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ Tipton said. ‘Now we’re moving to a government-run health care system,’ Tipton argued. ‘That will be punitive.(“Scott Tipton Joins Race for 3rd Congressional District,” Pagosa Daily Post, 11/17/09)

Democrats will look to hedge on their support for their party’s healthcare takeover, according to a variety of pundits and prognosticators who see the national environment shifting significantly against the majority. As their popularity plummets, several more key Democrats will see the writing on the wall: A vote for the Democrat healthcare agenda could be career-ending.

Two key ‘Yes’ votes – Brian Baird (WA-03) and Dennis Moore (KS-03) – are already heading for the exits, announcing their retirements after seeing their prospects for re-election collapse in the wake of the House healthcare vote. Two more retirements – Bart Gordon (TN-06) and John Tanner (TN-08) – offer further proof that the Democrat platform is a loser at the polls. As the ranks of Democrats returning to Congress in 2011 continue to thin, expect more vulnerable members to learn from their departing colleagues and run for political cover during the final healthcare push.

  • Democrats Face a Hostile Environment in 2010:An already difficult situation for Democrats in Congress is worsening as the 2010 political season opens… But they face an incumbent-hostile electorate worried about a 10 percent unemployment rate, weary of wars and angry at politicians of all stripes. Many independents who backed Democrats in 2006 and 2008 have turned away. Republicans, meanwhile, are energized and united in opposing Obama’s policies.(Liz Sidoti, “2010 Situation Grows More Difficult for Democrats,” Associated Press, 1/3/10)
  • Time for Pelosi to Bolt the Doors as Democrats Can’t Jump Ship Fast Enough: “The grim outlook for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections just got a little worse. Four top Democrats — including veteran Sens. Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan — all prepared to pull the plug on their campaigns in a 24-hour period that began Tuesday, and in the process, offered an unnerving glimpse at the perilous election year aheadSuddenly, the sad sack GOP is looking at its best shot in three election cycles of making serious gains in November.” (Josh Kraushaar, “Top Democrats Head for the Exits,” Politico, 1/6/10)


  • What a Difference a Year Can Make: Take a step back and consider how much the political climate has changed over the past year. Just 12 months ago, Democrats were blissful, celebrating their White House victory plus the expansion of their majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans were sullen, contemplating their total removal from power. Today, Democrats fear that their edge in the Senate could be halved next November and fret that their hold on the House is not secure. In the past month, four Democrats representing tough House districts have announced their intention to retire. Now Republicans are pinching themselves at the idea that their time in the wilderness might be much briefer than they feared… Winds that began shifting against Democrats around the end of June, during the House cap-and-trade vote and the beginning of the health care debate, are now transforming their party’s potential problems into real ones.” (Charlie Cook, “Dems Troubled But Holding On,” National Journal, 12/19/09)



House Republicans will continue to do our part to stop government-run healthcare before it can inflict devastating consequences on American families and future generations.  But we are not alone in this fight.  Along with the support of the American people, Republican candidates throughout the country are challenging House Democrats to listen to their constituents or face devastating consequences of their own.  These Democrats have had every opportunity to respond to the loud chorus of taxpayers that are opposing their government healthcare takeover. We are now in an election year and Democrats are fully aware that they are legislating themselves into heavy political losses at the polls in November. With the writing on the wall, the question is whether these vulnerable members will start to listen to voters or start writing their political obituaries.