Commentary Magazine


Topic: David Wasserman

Is ObamaCare Enough?

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Maybe it was the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for President Obama. … Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. That is the lowest level of total approval yet measured for this President.”

In RealClearPolitics.com, Obama’s average disapproval reaches an all-time high of 47.2 percent.

Put it this way: “Obama turned out to be quite an effective community organizer. But the community he organized was a majority of the American people in opposition to his agenda of big-government liberalism.”

David Wasserman of Cook Political Report, as quoted by the New York Times: “The concern among Democrats right now is that there are more yes votes reconsidering than no votes. … My sense is that for Democrats to pass this bill, they would have to convince several members who are already in serious jeopardy, even after voting no on the first health care bill, to put passage of the bill ahead of their own chances of being competitive in the fall.”

On the money: “In a GOP that the mainstream media loves to portray as ‘intensely divided’, we would do well to follow the [Bob] McDonnell model when approaching upcoming elections. For the first time in a long while, Republicans of all stripes appear united in their dislike for President Obama’s fiscal, regulatory, health care proposals and environmental policies. Focusing on the issues, and not on religious or social warfare, as Gov. McDonnell did, is the most likely pathway to success for Republicans in 2010.”

“Under the Obami Bus” would be a shorter headline. But this one does the job: “President Barack Obama abandons Rep. Charles Rangel against ethics charges.”

The good thing about being a former president is that you can tell off Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush: “I have no desire to see myself on television. I don’t want to be a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do…  I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn’t like it when a certain former president — and it wasn’t 41 or 42 — made my life miserable.” Actually, the current ones should do the same.

Republicans are probably wise to harp on reconciliation because so many Americans oppose it, and it does seem to reinforce their point that Democrats are trying to steamroll an unpopular bill. Sen. Tom Coburn used the GOP weekly radio address to bash Democrats for “procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year. … If the president and the leaders in Congress are serious about finding common ground they should continue this debate, not cut it off by rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”

Maybe it was the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for President Obama. … Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. That is the lowest level of total approval yet measured for this President.”

In RealClearPolitics.com, Obama’s average disapproval reaches an all-time high of 47.2 percent.

Put it this way: “Obama turned out to be quite an effective community organizer. But the community he organized was a majority of the American people in opposition to his agenda of big-government liberalism.”

David Wasserman of Cook Political Report, as quoted by the New York Times: “The concern among Democrats right now is that there are more yes votes reconsidering than no votes. … My sense is that for Democrats to pass this bill, they would have to convince several members who are already in serious jeopardy, even after voting no on the first health care bill, to put passage of the bill ahead of their own chances of being competitive in the fall.”

On the money: “In a GOP that the mainstream media loves to portray as ‘intensely divided’, we would do well to follow the [Bob] McDonnell model when approaching upcoming elections. For the first time in a long while, Republicans of all stripes appear united in their dislike for President Obama’s fiscal, regulatory, health care proposals and environmental policies. Focusing on the issues, and not on religious or social warfare, as Gov. McDonnell did, is the most likely pathway to success for Republicans in 2010.”

“Under the Obami Bus” would be a shorter headline. But this one does the job: “President Barack Obama abandons Rep. Charles Rangel against ethics charges.”

The good thing about being a former president is that you can tell off Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush: “I have no desire to see myself on television. I don’t want to be a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do…  I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn’t like it when a certain former president — and it wasn’t 41 or 42 — made my life miserable.” Actually, the current ones should do the same.

Republicans are probably wise to harp on reconciliation because so many Americans oppose it, and it does seem to reinforce their point that Democrats are trying to steamroll an unpopular bill. Sen. Tom Coburn used the GOP weekly radio address to bash Democrats for “procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year. … If the president and the leaders in Congress are serious about finding common ground they should continue this debate, not cut it off by rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

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Recruitment Is a Leading Indicator

The weekend before the Virginia gubernatorial election, I spoke with former Rep. Tom Davis. Sensing a victory in the offing, he told me that an immediate effect of a big GOP win would be recruiting for 2010. In 1994, a majority of the GOP’s successful recruiting, which enabled the Republicans to regain the House, took place after gubernatorial wins that year in New Jersey and Virginia.

It seems that Davis is right. The GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey are accelerating a trend that was already well under way. As this report notes:

Several Democratic candidates have decided to drop out of tough races, while Democratic members of Congress who rarely face serious challenges are finding themselves with their toughest re-elections in years. … But in 2010, defense is the name of the game for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is defending several dozens vulnerable freshmen and second-term members, while also protecting veteran members who could find themselves in newfound trouble. It will be a lot more challenging for a first-time candidate running in a tough district to get financial support from the DCCC when the party is worried about defending its own.

Meanwhile, Republican recruiting is turning up challengers to Democrats who haven’t had significant challenges in the past. David Wasserman at Cook Report explains:

This is not to say that highly influential and venerated fixtures such as Reps. Ike Skelton (MO-04), John Spratt (SC-05), Bart Gordon (TN-06), John Tanner (TN-08) and Rick Boucher (VA-09) are goners next year. Their eventual vulnerability is highly dependent on the quality of GOP nominees and the discipline of their “time for change” messages. But if these party elders decide to seek reelection rather than retire, the underlying dynamics of their districts suggest at least several will need to fight to survive.

All this suggests that 2010 is shaping up to be a potential “wave” year in which there are more opportunities for pickups than in a run-of-the-mill year. If we learned anything in the past year, it’s that political prognostication is a dicey business. The GOP is now challenging in places it was considered dead (e.g. New England) and has recaptured momentum on key issues. But much can change, and the Democrats — if they can figure out what to do with it — have the power of incumbency.

The weekend before the Virginia gubernatorial election, I spoke with former Rep. Tom Davis. Sensing a victory in the offing, he told me that an immediate effect of a big GOP win would be recruiting for 2010. In 1994, a majority of the GOP’s successful recruiting, which enabled the Republicans to regain the House, took place after gubernatorial wins that year in New Jersey and Virginia.

It seems that Davis is right. The GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey are accelerating a trend that was already well under way. As this report notes:

Several Democratic candidates have decided to drop out of tough races, while Democratic members of Congress who rarely face serious challenges are finding themselves with their toughest re-elections in years. … But in 2010, defense is the name of the game for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is defending several dozens vulnerable freshmen and second-term members, while also protecting veteran members who could find themselves in newfound trouble. It will be a lot more challenging for a first-time candidate running in a tough district to get financial support from the DCCC when the party is worried about defending its own.

Meanwhile, Republican recruiting is turning up challengers to Democrats who haven’t had significant challenges in the past. David Wasserman at Cook Report explains:

This is not to say that highly influential and venerated fixtures such as Reps. Ike Skelton (MO-04), John Spratt (SC-05), Bart Gordon (TN-06), John Tanner (TN-08) and Rick Boucher (VA-09) are goners next year. Their eventual vulnerability is highly dependent on the quality of GOP nominees and the discipline of their “time for change” messages. But if these party elders decide to seek reelection rather than retire, the underlying dynamics of their districts suggest at least several will need to fight to survive.

All this suggests that 2010 is shaping up to be a potential “wave” year in which there are more opportunities for pickups than in a run-of-the-mill year. If we learned anything in the past year, it’s that political prognostication is a dicey business. The GOP is now challenging in places it was considered dead (e.g. New England) and has recaptured momentum on key issues. But much can change, and the Democrats — if they can figure out what to do with it — have the power of incumbency.

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