Markey’s Health Care Vote Helps Her Re-Election

The Denver Post ran an article over the weekend arguing that Congresswoman Betsy Markey has become a polarizing force within her district in light of her recent ‘yes’ vote for health care reform.  Indeed, conventional wisdom emerging from her district holds that Markey has consigned herself to only one term in Congress because the majority of her district, which leans Republican anyway, opposed the highly controversial piece of legislation.

After all, The Coloradoan’s Bob Moore wrote in his blog last week that of all the Democrats in Congress, her vote was the gutsiest/riskiest because she represents a +6 Republican District, and it was already a tossup race before her vote.  Quoting pollster Nate Sivler, Moore then compared her to Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, who cast the deciding vote in the Clinton budget in 1994 and lost her seat soon thereafter.

Despite her controversial vote, however, I am now not convinced her political fortunes are any different than they were before two weeks. In fact, I think this vote may actually help her re-election efforts in November.

As I have argued before, Markey’s largest political weakness is going into November is being a Democrat elected to a predominately Republican district, and those who are upset with her vote on health care weren’t likely to vote for her anyway. Had she voted against the measure, her political fortunes would likely be worse off. She would have dampened her support within her own base, risked losing valuable campaign funding from unions for which health care is a new litmus test, and its doubtful she would have picked up many right-leaning voters or Republicans.

In fact, as Denver Westword blog noted after she voted against the original House bill in November, Cory Gardner’s campaign spokesman contorted himself into knots trying to tie Markey to the reform bill anyway–arguing that it was a vote of expedience, not conscience. “There’s no doubt in my mind that it was carefully calculated,” Gardner spokesman asserted.

“She knows this legislation is out of step with her district, and that’s why she voted against it — but only after doing everything she could to help it pass.” Had she voted no again, voters suspicious of her to begin with would still no doubt question her motives and integrity in voting against it and would have simply argued that she was shifting with the political winds. She would have lost either way.

Now, though, she has an energized base, that will be willing to walk through fire for her, swing voters may now see her vote as one of conviction and principle, which is something that independents value in particular. Since health care reform is now law, moreover, many of its benefits will be noticed immediately. For example, children can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are twenty-six, children with pre-existing conditions are will be covered within 6 months, the Medicare Part D donut hole begins to close with a $250 rebate for all Medicare recipients who hit the coverage gap, and there are immediate bans on lifetime limits on coverage and on restrictive annual limits on coverage.

As people begin to see how they benefit from the new law, they will embrace reform, which has been mired by misinformation, fear-mongering and a messy legislative process that mystified and frustrated the average voter. What’s more, the intensity of opposition to reform cannot persist at these levels forever, even the staunchest opponent of reform will tire from health care fatigue.  In fact, as I argued over the weekend, the larger political narrative over the health care debate has already begun to shift in favor of the Democrats and there are some indications that public opinion is already beginning to shift as well.

Make no mistake, Congresswoman Markey is facing a tough re-election battle this November, but her chief obstacle remains the same as it was the day she walked into office–that is, being a Democrat elected from a Republican district.  In the end, health care reform–whether she favored or opposed it–cannot change that.  

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account

You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.