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PW logo Midterm Election Preview Quote of the Day
Americans Split on Health Care Reform Lack of Open Seats Complicates GOP Math
Newsweek Sexist? Palin Contradicts Herself

News from the Votemaster

Many People Have Wrong Expectations about the Health-Reform Bill     Permalink

Except for people who have really been following the health-reform debate in detail, many people have do not have a good idea of what it will really mean. Politico has a round-up of some common misconceptions a lot of people have about the bill Given all the screaming and yelling about it, it is not surprising that even if a bill passes, it will not be what many people expect. Here are some of the most common misconceptions.

  • Everyone can choose the public option (No: only about 30 million will be allowed to).
  • Everyone can use the new exchanges (No: only the self-employed and the poor can).
  • The new choices take effect immediately (No: they start in 2013).
  • There is a big fine if you don't have insurance (No: zero until 2014; $750 in 2017).

For the vast majority of people, who get insurance via their employer, nothing at all changes. They cannot choose any of the new alternative forms of insurance and are stuck with whatever their employer offers them, good or bad. President Obama sees this as a feature, not a bug, because it provides the minimum possible disruption to the current system--and look how much opposition it generated. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) never tires of telling people that if you don't like your car insurance company, you can get a new one but if you don't like the health plan your company picked, well, tough luck--but nobody is listening (Wyden wants to force companies to offer at least two plans). Of course, some of this could change in the conference bill or come 2015 or so, Congress could allow more people to use the exchanges once they are operating, but any attempt to expand eligibility will meet fierce resistance from the insurance companies and the Republicans. On the other hand, once the exchanges are operating and it is clear to everyone that the world as we know if has not come to an end, it will be harder to oppose expanding the pool of people allowed to use the exchanges.

If the public option is included in the final bill and passes, it is likely that the insurance companies will quickly see its value. They will try very hard to annoy sick customers in hopes they will voluntarily leave and use the public option. This will (1) get rid of expensive customers and (2) burden the public plan with expensive people, making it impossible for it to offer low premiums. How might the insurance companies annoy people they don't like? They could make them wait on hold endlessly when they call for information and then give them a run-around when they finally get through, be slow making payments, make "mistakes" all the time, and so on. Conversely, they could give excellent service to young, healthy customers.

Palin's Book Out Today     Permalink

Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue, is out today. Early reports say that it goes after the McCain campaign staff hammer and tongs, but leaves the father of her grandson, Levi Johnston alone. Johnston has said she better leave him alone because he has seriously damaging material on her. The book has an initial print run of 1.5 million copies and will be an instant best seller. Expect endless praise and dissection of it everywhere all week. The jokes have already started. This is part of Palin's problem: when you are the butt of jokes, it is hard to look presidential. Mike Huckabee wrote a book too, but nobody jokes about it.

The book has three purposes. First, Palin, who is not rich, will make millions of dollars in royalties from it, thus cashing in on her fame. Second, it presents her side of various stories (such at the infighting during the 2008 campaign). Third, it keeps her in the news and enhances her chances in the 2012 Republican primaries. It is doubtful that she has even seriously thought about whether she is going to run for President then, but the book keeps the door open.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows how polarizing Palin is. Among Republicans, 76% have a favorable view of her but among all Americans, 60% say she is not qualified to be President. The bottom line on numbers like these is that she could conceivably win the Republican nomination, only to be squashed like a bug in the general election.

Unless the Republicans change their nomination process before 2012, Palin actually has a decent shot at the nomination if she decides to run. The big thing she has going for her it the fact that most Republican primaries are winner take all. In a five-way race against Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich, she could get 30% of the vote and 100% of the delegates in many states. Furthermore, Republican primary voters are much more conservative than the party as a whole, which helps her a lot. If Palin wins the early races in Bible-belt Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, she may have enough momentum to carry her through the first round of big states. At that point, the party may panic about her, but convincing any of the others except Pawlenty to drop out will be tough. Huckabee came in second in 2008 and probably thinks of himself as the heir apparent. Romney spent $40 million of his own money in 2008 and could easily repeat that in 2012 and is the candidate the business wing of the GOP likes best, so he won't drop out. Gingrich has been around for a long time (he engineered the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress) and if he decides to run, he will regard himself as the only candidate with new ideas and is very unlikely to allows guys like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner to tell him what to do. But Palin may be more interested in milking her fame for all its worth until the summer of 2011 and not run after all.

Another factor to consider is the possibility of a reverse Limbaugh play. In 2008, after it was already clear that Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee, Rush Limbaugh strongly urged Republicans to switch their party registration to Democratic to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to prolong the primary process. It is not clear how many did, but little did he realize how much he was helping Obama. By forcing Obama to hone his message and campaign team in the Spring, he had a well-disciplined organization in the Fall. If Clinton had dropped out in April 2008, Obama would have been a far weaker candidate in the general election. In 2012, we might see the reverse, with Daily Kos and other Democratic-oriented groups urging Democrats to reregister as Republicans in order to vote for Palin in the primaries. However, this is where the comparison ends. Palin could actually win the nomination and would be the weakest possible candidate the Republicans could field in the general election.

Coakley Leading in Massachusetts Primary     Permalink

The most recent poll in the Dec. 8 Massachusetts Democratic primary to fill the seat of the late Ted Kennedy has state Attorney General Martha Coakley at 44%, more than all of her competitors combined. But 20% of the voters are still undecided. On the Republican side, state senator Scott Brown is leading his nearest competitor 45% to 7%, but it hardly matters who wins since the Democrat is virtually certain of winning the general election in January in very blue Massachusetts. So it looks like come January, there will be another woman in the Senate.

Hutchison Will Not Resign Before the Texas Primary     Permalink

Rumors that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would resign from the Senate to spend all her time campaigning for governor of Texas have turned out to be false. Hutchison has now said that she will stay in the Senate until after the March 2nd primary in order to oppose the health-care bill and the climate-change bill. (English translation: Rasmussen says Gov. Perry has an 11-point lead at the moment. If she loses the primary, she may just decide being a senator isn't such a bad job after all.)

Paterson Trails All Candidates in New Poll     Permalink

Embattled Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) would lose a primary with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) by 60 points and would be defeated by Rudy Guiliani and even by former representative Rick Lazio (R) if the gubernatorial election were held today. President Obama has already asked Paterson not to run. What else is he waiting for? At this point the most likely scenario in New York is that Paterson does not run to avoid the embarrassment of being crushed by Cuomo, and then Cuomo goes on to win his dad's old job easily.

Beau Biden Leading Castle in Delaware     Permalink

If Joe Biden's son, Beau (now Delaware Attorney General) were to run for the Senate, a new poll shows he would beat Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) who is trying for a promotion at age 70. Earlier polls put Castle way ahead. The younger Biden has not announced whether or not he is running, but this poll will certainly push him in the direction of going after the Senate seat his father held for 30 years. One of the things that is going to hurt Castle in blue Delaware is his vote against the health-reform bill that passed the House. If Biden runs, he will hammer Castle on this.

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