Frivolous health care lawsuits fail to boost state AGs

FRIVOLOUS HEALTH CARE LAWSUIT FAILS TO BOOST STATE AGS…. Almost immediately after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, several Republican state attorneys general — all ambitious, all with higher office in mind — decided that filing a lawsuit challenging the new law would boost their careers.

Among them were: South Carolina’s Henry McMaster (R), Florida’s Bill McCollum (R), and Michigan’s Mike Cox (R). All three ran for governor this year, based at least in part on their “leadership” roles trying to undermine health care reform. As Ben Smith noted today, things didn’t turn out well for them — all three lost in their respective primaries.

McMaster lost to Nikki Haley, whose reform message trumped his series of ads touting his health care fight. Cox, who also put his health care suit on air, lost to a wealthy businessman who ran on a non-ideological platform under the slogan, “one tough nerd.” McCollum lost to Rick Scott, and there the message may not be as clear — Scott was also a leading national foe of the health care bill.

But the suggestion to take from this, I think, is that the “throw the bums out” sentiment shouldn’t be mistaken for an argument solely, or even primarily, about policy — even about health care.

In fairness, the larger pattern doesn’t hold up for all of the state AGs involved in the suit. In Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett (R) joined the lawsuit, for example, and he remains the favorite in the state’s gubernatorial campaign.

But in March, there was an assumption, especially in Republican circles, that opposition to the Affordable Care Act was political gold — and the bigger one’s role in fighting the Democratic reform package, the larger the political reward. Five months later, those assumptions are looking pretty shaky.