Another Take on the Health Care Debate

As the debate over the roots of Democratic woes continues, David Brady, Daniel Kessler, and Douglas Rivers take to the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal with an argument that it really is about health care:

We have polled voters in 11 states likely to have competitive Senate races in November on how they feel about health reform and how they might vote in November….

Health reform is more popular in some of these states than in others. Where it’s popular, Democratic candidates don’t have too much of a problem, but where it’s unpopular—and that includes most states—the Democratic Senate candidates are fighting an uphill battle…

How do we know that it’s the health-reform bill that’s to blame for the low poll numbers for Democratic Senate candidates and not just that these are more conservative states?

First, we asked voters how their incumbent senator voted on the health-care bill that passed on Christmas Eve. About two-thirds answered correctly. Even now, long before Senate campaigns have intensified, voters know where the candidates stand on health care. And second, we asked voters about their preference for Democrat versus Republican candidates in a generic House race. As in the Senate, the higher the level of opposition to health reform, the greater the likelihood that the state’s voters supported Republicans.

It’s possible to construct a case that the direction of causality here is not as clear as the authors claim. Still, this is evidence that voters are paying attention to the health care debate, and are, in general, aware of where the two sides stand.

(Via The Monkey Cage.)

Update: Apparently, though, this isn’t quite conventional wisdom. From Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen’s Politico piece on why Scott Brown’s win really was a great big deal: “It would be a mistake for Republicans and Democrats to chalk this up to the health care bill. Independents consistently tell pollsters they aren’t happy with anything Washington is doing when it comes to the economy and domestic issues.”

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.