The unknown electoral implications

THE UNKNOWN ELECTORAL IMPLICATIONS…. It’s hardly a secret that the Democratic health care reform plan has been subjected to some intense criticism — from insurance companies, from the Republican Party, from right-wing activists, and more recently, from some liberal reform proponents — which has weakened once-strong support. Given the incredible misinformation campaign launched by conservatives, it’s sometimes a pleasant surprise reform still has any supporters left at all.

As a rule, politicians don’t like passing unpopular bills, and certainly don’t expect to reap rewards from doing so. But health care reform is trickier than most issues.

Many conservatives seem to think Dems are committing the political equivalent of mass suicide, which necessarily makes one wonder why Republicans are fighting so diligently to prevent it. Many Democratic officials believe it’s well worth the risk, in part because reform is so important as a policy matter, and in part because they expect to reap the electoral benefits of championing a (hopefully) successful policy.

For what it’s worth, at least one new national poll will be welcome news among Dems in D.C.

Support for the health care reform bill that Democrats are pushing through the Senate has risen six points since early December, according to a new national poll, and although a majority of Americans still oppose its passage, only four in ten agree with Senate Republicans that the bill is too liberal.

The results of the CNN poll are entirely counterintuitive. The poll, which may very well be an outlier, shows support for reform jumping from 36% to 42% over the last two weeks. More importantly, it shows the biggest jump in support among Democrats — who liked the plan significantly more after the public option and the Medicare buy-in were scuttled. (The same is true of President Obama, whose approval rating is up six points, thanks in large part to a jump in support from self-identified liberals.)

That does seem odd, doesn’t it?

In any case, whether the CNN is reliable or not, I think it’s at least possible that the reform bill will give Dems a bit of a bump in January. If there’s a big White House ceremony to celebrate the accomplishment, an appreciation for the historic nature of the development, followed by an effective sales job built around the State of the Union, support for reform may very well go up.

The wild card, I suspect, will be the progressive activists. Time will tell if the conference committee improves the bill, and if so, how much. But if the resulting policy is deemed a bitter disappointment by reform’s most ardent supporters, and the long-awaited health care reform breakthrough is rejected by the left, it reshuffles the electoral deck. Democratic officials, one imagines, would expect plaudits from their own base, delivering on the holy grail of Democratic politics for seven decades. If that doesn’t occur, it’s going to hurt the party going forward.