In reaction to my post yesterday, and lots of other punditry around the web, my friend Rusty Weiss of Mental Recession fame (he recently celebrated six months of blogging!) emailed me to say he’s tired of having to settle for silver linings — that he want points on the board.
A lot of us — political activists, policy geeks, and court watchers alike — were disappointed with the outcome of yesterday’s ruling. We wanted a full takedown of Obamacare, for both substantive and political reasons. Instead, we got a ruling that the president’s signature legislative achievement passes constitutional muster, even if it was most peculiarly reasoned.
Well, it’s the day after Obamacare was ruled Constitutional. I thought I would wake up feeling much like yesterday: dejected. But a funny thing happened. I read a couple of pieces that left me optimistic about the long term effects of yesterday’s ruling.
The first one was a great article by Sean Trende, over at RealClearPolitics. Not only does he juxtapose the Roberts opinion with Chief Justice John Marshall’s in the Marbury v Madison case, but he also offers some interesting insights:
1. The law still has a good chance of not being implemented.
Let’s start with Roberts’ presumed crass political considerations. Namely, as a conservative Republican, he would not want the health care law implemented. But if Mitt Romney wins the November election, it is highly likely that Republicans will win the Senate as well. Right now, Romney probably has no worse than a 50-50 chance of being elected. I honestly don’t think in the long run this changes things that much. The next jobs report will have a much greater impact on Obama’s re-election bid over the long haul than this decision.
If Republicans win the Senate and presidency, the law is doomed. They will use reconciliation to repeal it, or to gut it. In fact, since the court essentially allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, there’s a chance that the bill would no longer reduce the deficit if a large state like Texas opted out. This makes the use of reconciliation much easier.
2. Doctrinally, The Federalist Society got everything it wanted.
After ripping off taxpayers during his 16 terms in the House, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year:
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2012, ending a three-decade career in the House.
Frank, 71, is the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee and the architect, with former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), of the sweeping Wall Street regulatory reform law enacted in 2010.
He announced his decision at an afternoon press conference in his hometown of Newton, Mass., where he said redistricting played a major role in his retirement.
“I was planning to run again, and then congressional redistricting came,” Frank said.
Over at Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende writes that Frank’s district may be more competitive for Republicans in 2012, noting that it “barely went for Democrat Deval Patrick (who won statewide by six points) in 2010 and that gave Republican Brown a 10-point win.” Frank finished with 54% of the vote last year against Sean Bielat, in a seat he had overwhelmingly carried in previous elections. Frank acknowledged that it would be a “tough race.”
Earlier I noted that this weird Republican primary contest could get even crazier before the first votes are cast in Iowa on January 3, 2012. Over at Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende explains why it’s likely that we’ll see more twists and turns by drawing from the 2008 cycle in both party primaries. Here is an excerpt, but I recommend you read the entire peice for the full understanding of what Trende is getting at:
The Republican primary season seems to have had an endless succession of Republican front-runners and alternatives to Mitt Romney. But history suggests that we’re just getting started. Take a look at the RealClearPolitics average for the Republican contest in 2008:
At this point in the last cycle, the rankings were: (1) Rudy Giuliani; (2) Fred Thompson; (3) John McCain, roughly tied with Mitt Romney; (5) Mike Huckabee. Two months later, it was a McCain/Huckabee race. Giuliani wouldn’t begin to decline for another month, and McCain wouldn’t be in first place until mid-January.
Of course, the national ratings are only a small portion of what goes on in a primary. Iowa and New Hampshire are key. Here’s the RCP Average for 2008 in those two states, with Huckabee bolded for Iowa and McCain bolded for New Hampshire:
As Democrats come off a bad weekend, Politico reports that 99 House seats currently held by the majority party are in play:
[T]he nonpartisan Cook Political Report predicts a GOP net gain of at least 40 House seats, with 90 Democratic seats in total rated as competitive or likely Republican.
“When Chairman [Pete] Sessions and Leader [John] Boehner said that 100 House seats were in play, Democrats scoffed,” said Ken Spain, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s communications director. “Today, they aren’t laughing anymore.”
The number of Democrats in danger is more than double the 39 seats Republicans need to seize control of the House. It reflects an elastic electoral environment that favors the GOP by every measure: money, momentum and mood of the country — in this case, sour on Democratic incumbents.
[T]he worst news for Democrats is the actual ballot test. In the Tossup/Leans R/Likely R districts, Republicans are leading the Democrats 48 percent to 44 percent. Moreover, in the districts that Charlie Cook presently has leaning toward the Democrats, the Democrats are tied with Republicans.
[W]hat we are currently looking at is a 10-point generic lead for Republicans among the likely electorate. This would represent historic gains for the GOP. This would be larger than the 52-45% edge that gave the Republicans 230 seats in 1994 or the 52%-44% win that gave Democrats 233 seats in 2006. A ten-point win would be more consistent with the 53%-43% edge Democrats had in 2008, which gave them 257 seats - 80 seats more than Republicans presently occupy.
And it’s not clear that things are going to get any better for Democrats in the next 100 days. Political scientists don’t agree on much, but they do generally agree that midterm elections are driven heavily by Presidential job approval . President Obama’s approval and disapproval numbers seemingly hit a plateau around January of this year, at roughly a 50-50 split.
Recently, though, the President’s disapproval numbers have spiked again, and his approvals have fallen. There is now a near-majority of voters disapproving of him, the highest number in the history of the RCP Average. This also means that there are probably around 100 House Democrats running for re-election in districts where the President’s approval rating is upside-down. If this trend continues, it could be potentially catastrophic for Democrats, driving their generic numbers down even further.