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Will Virginia Affect the Health-Care Debate?

Like many others, Michael Gerson is trying to see the fallout from a potential loss by Creigh Deeds. (Yes, it is really bad news for a candidate when the entire punditocracy decides that he has lost and it’s time to skip right to the postmortem.) One immediate consequence may affect the health-care debate, Gerson argues:

The Virginia race does not merely reflect national trends; it will help determine those trends. The November election may come at a key moment in the health-care debate, just as conservative Democrats are being asked to take a political risk in support of Obama and reform. A Democratic loss in Virginia would send a message: The risk is greater than you think.

There are many reasons — polls and town-hall meetings, to count two — why Democrats are already nervous about voting for a massive government takeover of health care. But then again, nothing would focus the minds of Democratic legislators on the overriding concern of all elected officials — their own political survival — better than the loss of an election, if that is what is ahead in Virginia (and New Jersey is still close as well). Would a Deeds defeat (and a possible loss by Jon Corzine) be enough to induce panic among Red State senators and those wavering Blue Dogs who’d rather not vote for massive new taxes and cuts in Medicare? It might be.

Now the pressure to pass the signature piece of legislation on Obama’s agenda will be intense from both the White House and the Democratic congressional leaders. It is not every day that Democrats have the chance to see come true the political dream of generations of liberals — a massive entitlement program that will make the federal government the permanent guardian of health care for the entire country. What we do know is that there is still a lot to be decided as to what “health-care reform” will actually look like. And there is much distance between ObamaCare, on the one hand (highly risky for vulnerable lawmakers and highly desired by Obama and the liberal congressional leadership) and a face saving, bare-bones measure on the other (not very risky for vulnerable lawmakers but not desired at all by Obama and the liberal congressional leadership).

It might be that after the results are in on election night, the political resistance of endangered Democrats stiffens and the “less rather than more” sentiment prevails. One thing is certain: if Virginia is a trend setter, many of those Democrats forced to walk the plank on health care will meet the same fate Creigh Deeds now faces. Those Democrats now unlucky enough to go in front of the voters (after they’ve had a taste of Obamaism) may find themselves joining the ranks of the unemployed.



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