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Published:March 26th, 2010 11:08 EST
Is Health Care Reform Really Such a Political Loser?

Is Health Care Reform Really Such a Political Loser?

By Geoff Dean


It is almost conventional wisdom that President Obama`s Democrats will take a whipping in the midterm elections due in November 2010. They will lose a number of incumbents in swing states and may even lose their congressional majorities, goes the assumption. A hobbled Obama will struggle to accomplish anything in the remainder of his term. And the Kansas Jayhawks will thrash Northern Iowa.

 I`m not so sure that Health Care Reform is the political lemon that we often hear it is. President Obama has an ace in the hole. The opposition.

 First, the ascendancy of the Tea Party movement and its championing of the anti-Health Care Reform movement surely gives a lot of momentum and energy to Republican candidates. But unfortunately, an extremely fired-up vote counts for no more than a tepid, lukewarm one. And as the Tea Party activists increasingly turn strident (see recent homophobic and racist slurs, the "baby killer" incident, death threats, pro-Health Reform congresspeople`s addresses posted online, Palin`s palm reading, etc.), the Tea Party movement looks increasingly a) laughable, b) dangerous, and c) unstable. This may lead some to support the eloquent and calm Obama, even if they oppose the policy.

 Secondly, the Republicans are the masters of overkill and shooting themselves in the foot. Remember the Clinton impeachment debacle. What started as a damaging scandal to President Clinton, ended with the Republicans looking ridiculous and getting drubbed at the polls. Remember shutting down the government. Valid Republican points and arguments (they had some, methinks) were overshadowed by melodramatic gamesmanship. The Contract With America was forgotten in the light of "conservative extremism". Will a Tea Party flavored Republican Party behave more rationally and coolly? Or do even more extreme things to discredit themselves?

 Finally, November is still a ways off. President Obama may move on to Immigration Reform or trying to do something on education or the environment. The Republicans want to keep the debate on health care reform. But they risk becoming a broken record and seeming out of touch if the national discussion has moved on and they haven`t. If Obama is wise, he will bring up other issues, keep labeling the Republicans, the party of "No" and insist that he has sought bipartisanship but been denied by the GOP (fairly or not). If the GOP tries to repeal health care, it will not work and will make them seem more powerless. Not a recipe for midterm success.

 A lot of people don`t like Health Care Reform. Many more don`t understand it. Some feel that it was forced down their throats. It is a golden opportunity for Republicans across the country. And I can`t think of a political party anywhere more capable of blowing it.