Pressuring Wayward Dems
Wayward DINOs assume they can block health care reform and work with the GOP to filibuster an opt-out public option, because they always know their pimps in the industry will bankroll them. But they also vote against their constituents because they assume they’ll always be re-elected in their home states. Maybe one DINO is about to get a big surprise.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) may pay a political price if he follows through on a threat to block a health care reform bill.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the pro-reform advocacy group that's been pressuring Harry Reid in Nevada, commissioned a poll this week of likely Indiana voters and found that Bayh could face a Democratic backlash by opposing the public option.
Research 2000 found that 52 percent of state voters back the public option -- in keeping with recent national polls. The poll, jointly commissioned by Democracy for America, also found that a significant percentage of Hoosiers would be less likely to vote for the fence-sitting Bayh if he chose to oppose the Reid-backed option.
Bayh is widely popular statewide with a 62 approval rating, but half of Democrats polled said they would consider switching their vote if he decided to support a GOP filibuster against health reform, as he suggested he might do earlier this week.
The former Indiana governor, who has taken about $1.5 million in insurance company contributions, told CBS he'd consider siding with the GOP on procedural votes if the cost of Reid's $800 billion-plus plan weren't contained, saying it wasn't even worth "starting a discussion" if changes weren't made.
His base might punish him should he make good on the threat: Fifty-one percent of Democrats polled said Bayh's support of a GOP filibuster attempt would cost him their general election vote -- and a similar number said they would be open to another Democrat in the 2010 primary if he voted against his caucus.
Roughly a third of independents said Bayh's defection to the GOP on cloture would make them less likely to support him in the general.
And -- surprise, surprise -- the insurance industry is about as unpopular in the Midwest as elsewhere: 77 percent of respondents said that insurance companies care more about "making a profit" than helping patients.
So yes, wayward DINOs are vulnerable for opposing a public option, but only if an organized opposition within the party can pressure them. And this White House, and its neutered Organizing for America operation, run from the DNC by Obama’s people, has proven itself unable to do this. So the movement will have to come from Howard Dean’s Democracy for America and local groups working in tandem.
However, even this has its limits. It is easier to get opposition lined up against health insurers and whored Democratic senators than it will be on the climate bill, where there will be the usual DINOs like Max Baucus and Kent Conrad opposing Barbara Boxer’s higher emission reduction targets. Getting red or purple state voters riled up over climate change and mad at their senators for wanting a more moderate reduction schedule is more difficult than demonizing them and the industry for denying the public a true choice of less-costly health insurance options. Health insurance and the bankruptcies caused by the industry are kitchen-table issues, whereas a difference between a near-term 14% reduction target and a 20% target is not.