Commentary Magazine


Lincoln’s “Retirement” May Be Involuntary

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is in trouble, still:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Arkansas shows Lincoln’s support for reelection at 38% or 39% no matter which of four potential Republican challengers she is matched against. . . State Senator Gilbert Baker leads Lincoln by 12, and State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren holds an eight-point edge over the incumbent. Curtis Coleman, a private businessman, and Tom Cox, head of the Arkansas T.E.A. Party, both lead her by 10 points. In reality, however, the numbers reflect very little about the challengers and are best viewed as a referendum on the incumbent. The two-term senator, who was reelected with 54% of the vote in 2004, appears more vulnerable because of her visible and pivotal role in the Senate debate over health care.

The White House and the Democratic leadership have been telling their colleagues that health care is their political salvation, the only way of heading off the coming tidal wave election. But the voters don’t seem to agree. And those lawmakers like Lincoln, Ben Nelson (who won’t face the voters until 2012), and, yes, even Harry Reid (whose poll numbers aren’t that different from Lincoln’s) convinced themselves they could vote with the ultraliberal leadership while escaping the wrath of their own constituents. But politics doesn’t work that way.

In the day-to-day scuffle inside the Capitol domes, Reid, Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel may seem very important to the lives of lawmakers, but the ones who really matter are back home. For them, ObamaCare is not only objectionable on its own terms; it is also symbol of what they don’t like in Washington — corruption, backroom deals, and disregard for average Americans’ views and values (e.g., the right not to be forced to buy insurance you don’t want or can’t afford).

Perhaps the stampede to the congressional retirement home or the polls will finally register with some incumbent Democrats. If not, that’s why there are elections.

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