The debate over health care reform has left many important questions up in the air. Will the bill include a public option? Will the pharmaceutical industry support the President’s goals? Is Barack Obama a Nazi?
Those questions aside, I think one thing is certain: the longer the debate rages, the more vulnerable the Dems become in their hopes for reelection in 2010. Last week, the widely respected Cook Political Report said that the health care debate “has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and Congressional Democrats” and predicted a net loss of at least 6-12 seats in the 2010 midterm elections.
Recent polling conducted by Research 2000 indicates that Tennessee Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper could be among those casualties, as his favorability ratings are lagging way behind both President Obama’s and his state’s Democratic Governor, Phil Bredesen. This led Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos to suggest that the Dems should mobilize a primary challenger to remind Cooper to support a public option… or else. Of course, this prompted a cyber shouting match in which Cooper called the poll’s veracity into question and said that Markos falsely suggested that he did not support a public option (he has not yet committed either way.)
But moderates aren’t the only Democrats losing support in the midst of the health care confusion, congressional bruhaha, and tea bag hullabaloo. In fact, a recent poll shows that 40-year Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), whose wife recently pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges, is also vulnerable to a tough 2010 reelection challenge. According to the poll, only 40 percent of his constitutents say he deserves another term, while 44 percent disagree.
Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could lose his seat. A recent poll shows the Nevada Democrat losing to two Republicans, Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden, by eleven and five points respectively if the election were held today.
So to put it lightly, 2010 prospects aren’t looking good for the Democrats. In a new midterm rundown, numbers guru Nate Silver writes that “7 of the 10 upgrades (meaning that a party switch is now more likely) were made to Democratic-held seats.” As Silver notes, barring an event like 9/11, the new president’s party typically loses seats in the following midterms. But the loss could be worse than expected unless the Democrats succeed where numerous Presidents have failed—including Truman, Nixon, and Clinton—and pass health care reform before it gets bogged down by congressional infighting and public anxiety.