The Path to 50

The Path to 50

With Chief Justice John Roberts’ unthinkable decision to uphold Obamacare yesterday, all focus now shifts to repeal for conservatives. In order to repeal Obamacare, two things must happen: Republicans must retake the White House, and they must retake the Senate.

Contrary to popular opinion, Republicans don’t need a 60-vote majority to ram through an Obamacare repeal – as Ken Klukowski pointed out yesterday, “The only way to stop Obamacare now is with a one-page repeal bill that must be passed by the House and Senate. Because it would reduce the deficit you can pass it with 51 votes as a reconciliation bill in the Senate; you don’t need 60 votes.”

Republicans currently have 47 seats in the Senate. They only have 10 Senate seats up for re-election, as opposed to Democrats’ 23. Essentially, Republicans need to shift three seats from the Democrats and hold their own in order to win repeal, since the VP is the tiebreaker – although that assumes homogenous Senate Republican support for repeal.

Republicans essentially have four vulnerable seats; Democrats have up to ten. The question is how the Obamacare decision will play into these races – if Obamacare is unpopular in these states, that will certainly cut in Republicans’ favor. One thing is clear: swing-state voters do not like Obamacare. First, the Republican toss-up races:

  • Maine: Olympia Snowe’s retirement came as a welcome surprise to many conservatives, but it leaves former Maine governor Angus King as the likely winner in that race. King is running as an independent, but he is clearly a Democrat. The Republican nominee in Maine is Secretary of State Charlie Summers, who is running more than 25 points back of King at this point.
  • Massachusetts: Scott Brown is running a neck and neck race with Fauxcahontas, Elizabeth Warren. Obamacare is popular in the state, thanks to citizens’ familiarity with Romneycare (even though Romneycare is destroying the state’s finances). The Obamacare decision will have little role here.
  • Nevada: Dean Heller is up against Rep. Shelley Berkley. The race is tight, and Berkley has a history of problems with Congressional ethics. Current polls show Heller up narrowly over Berkley. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pouring his resources into Berkley’s campaign. According to recent polls, just 34 percent of Nevadans thought that the Supreme Court should rule Obamacare Constitutional.
  • Indiana: The defeat of Richard Lugar in the Indiana primary has put this state in play. Polls show Mourdock and his opponent, Joe Donnelly, essentially tied. Obamacare is massively unpopular in the state; 57 percent of Hoosiers don’t like it.

So the prediction for Republicans is that they will lose Maine, and hold the other three. At the worst, Republicans will lose two seats of these four.

Now for the Democrats. And this should have Republicans licking their lips:

  • Hawaii: Daniel Akaka retired from his seat in this state, and former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who is quite popular, is running for the seat. Both Democratic possibilities, Mazie Hirono and Ed Case, poll well against Lingle – but the last polls done were back in January.
  • Missouri: Claire McCaskill is in serious trouble against whichever Republican emerges from a bruising primary in the state. She runs behind Sarah Steelman, John Brunner, and Todd Akin. And Obamacare is massively unpopular in the state.
  • Montana: Jon Tester is running into an uphill battle against Congressman Denny Rehberg – polls show him trailing by a small to moderate margin. While Tester is a big Obamacare advocate, there’s no polling data indicating which way Montana leans on the issue.
  • New Mexico: Sen. Jeff Bingaman has decided not to run for re-election, opening the door wide for a Republican challenger. But current polling data has Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) running a few points ahead of Heather Wilson. That polling data is at least three months old. Obamacare as a whole is not popular in the state, which will undoubtedly hurt Heinrich.
  • North Dakota: Sen. Kent Conrad isn’t running this time. That leaves Congressman Rick Berg (R) taking on Heidi Heitkamp in a very tight race – the polls have been bouncing back and forth between the two, although most of the polls showing Heitkamp competitive come from Democrat-leaning pollsters. A full 70 percent of North Dakotans didn’t support Obamacare. Heitkamp did.
  • Virginia: The latest polls have showed a bounce in support for Republican former Sen. George Allen; Tim Kaine, the former governor of the state, has dropped in support at the same time. They’re now running neck and neck. As with other swing states, Obamacare is not popular in Virginia.
  • Wisconsin: Former governor Tommy Thompson is destroying Tammy Baldwin (D) in the polls in Wisconsin; Scott Walker’s big win in the recall effort is a boost for Thompson as well. And Obamacare remains massively unpopular in the state – by a 2-to-1 margin, Wisconsinites thought it should be overturned by the Supreme Court.
  • Florida: Polls show that 50 percent of Floridians didn’t like the Obamacare decision. And Rep. Connie Mack (R) is running even with Sen. Bill Nelson in the latest polls. This could be a significant boost for Mack – although Obama’s immigration decision was popular in Florida, which could be an equal boost for Nelson.
  • Michigan: Senator Debbie Stabenow is running strong against Republican challenger Rep. Pete Hoekstra in current polling. Barring a major upswing for Hoekstra, Democrats will likely hold this seat – although Hoekstra may be able to ride Mitt Romney’s coattails, since Romney is running very strong in Michigan at present.
  • Ohio: Ohio’s one of the toughest races to call. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is running against Secretary of State and Republican up-and-comer Josh Mandel, and the polls have been vacillating wildly. Mandel was closing the gap in May polling, but dropped behind again in June, perhaps as a result of President Obama’s frequent campaign stops in the state. Nonetheless, Ohio doesn’t love Obamacare

The prediction: Republicans will pick up at least five seats from the Democrats. And with increased conservative excitement and turnout thanks to the fact that the Senate is the crucial battleground for Obamacare repeal, the numbers may be better than that.

So, if Republicans can hold two of their four vulnerable seats and take five from the Democrats, they’ll have 50 votes – and the prospective Romney vice president will be the tiebreaker. That will be a difficult task. Repeal of Obamacare will come down to the wire – and in these states, every call, every canvassing, every vote will count.

It’s up to these swing state Americans to decide whether we all move further down the path toward nationalization of health care. The opportunity is at hand to repeal Obamacare. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to blow.


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