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10.30.10

Dems Done In by Health Care

Republicans have slammed Democratic candidates across the country for supporting Obama's reform. Benjamin Sarlin reports on the tight races most dominated by the issue, according to Election Oracle data.

Republicans have slammed Democratic candidates across the country for supporting Obama's reform. Benjamin Sarlin reports on the tight races most dominated by the issue, according to The Daily Beast's Election Oracle data.

President Obama defended his health-care plan from the left on The Daily Show this week, taking issue with Jon Stewart's claim that it was "timid" with a forceful reminder that the law will provide 30 million Americans with health insurance. But it's his right flank who are truly under siege as Republicans continuously hammer Democrats over the legislation—half of all ads purchased by the National Republican Congressional Committee have tied Democrats to the law, the New York Times reports.

We ran the stats on the issue through Election Oracle to find which races have been most dominated by discussions of the bill.

In terms of aggregate buzz, Nevada's Senate race between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle has seen by far the most talk online about the bill. This is in part due to the intense attention on this race in general, but also Reid's crucial role as Majority Leader in shepherding the legislation to its final passage. About 22 percent of all buzz about each candidate relates to the bill.

Another Senate candidate with an unusually high amount of buzz on the issue is Republican Rand Paul in Kentucky. Paul, a doctor himself, has slammed Democratic opponent Jack Conway for voicing support for the bill while Conway has accused Paul of wanting to increase Medicare fees. Between the two issues, about 28 percent of all online discussion of Paul relates to health care.

In a number of House races, especially where Democrats voted for the bill in conservative districts, we se the issue taking up much larger percentages of the conversation. Our tracker finds a whopping 51 percent of the online buzz surrounding Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO) is related to health care. Her opponent has made it a central point of attack in debates and it's no coincidence that Obama singled her out in his Daily Show appearance for showing courage in voting for the legislation despite its unpopularity among her constituents. Another Democrat he praised on the show, Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) , is taking major heat for his vote as well—41.9 percent of the online buzz surround his candidacy is about health care.

Voting against the bill is no guarantee it won't be a top campaign issue. South Dakota Democrat Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin didn't support the legislation, but her opponent Kristi Noem, whose charismatic conservatism has drawn comparisons to Sarah Palin, has nonetheless attacked her on the issue of whether or not it should be repealed. It seems to be generating major attention online—some 53 percent of the discussion around Herseth-Sandlin now relates to health care.

Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) voted against the health care bill and is actively running ads touting his opposition to both the legislation and Nancy Pelosi. “I voted against Nancy Pelosi’s trillion-dollar health care bill, because we can’t afford it,” Marshall says in one ad. Some 43 percent of the online discussion around his campaign now centers on health care.

One of the highest-ranking lawmakers in terms of health-care buzz based on our data is actually under fire from the left. Democratic Congressman Bobby Bright in Alabama voted against health care and is now facing an ad campaign from the progressive Blue America PAC that goes after him for not supporting the bill. The health care issue now takes up nearly 59 percent of the online discussion surrounding his campaign.

Some 51 percent of voters support repealing the law if the GOP wins majorities in Congress while 41 percent oppose repeal.

Whether the weak economy is coloring the conversation on health care more than the bill itself, the issue is one the Democrats are not fighting on favorable ground. Some 51 percent of voters support repealing the law if the GOP wins majorities in Congress while 41 percent oppose repeal, according to a new SHRM/National Journal poll. Repealing the law is a tough task for the GOP on multiple levels: in addition to Obama's ability to veto their efforts, Republican leaders have voiced support for many crucial provisions of the bill, most notably ending discrimination by insurers based on pre-existing conditions, that may be impossible to accomplish with substantially different policy measures. It's notable that even as the GOP whacks Democrats over the law in ads across the country, very few candidates and even fewer incumbents have signed on to Minority Leader John Boehner's pledge to undo the legislation.

Benjamin Sarlin is the Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast and edits the site's politics blog, Beltway Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.