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Five Races in Which the Health Care Debate Will Matter

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Demonstrators hold a rally at the Health and Human Services building Friday to protest the HHS mandates under the new health care law. The Supreme Court will hear a case on the law’s constitutionality today.

He added: “When you talk about IPAB and things like that, seniors feel a direct threat to their relationship with their doctor, and if Democrats have to defend it, they’re losing.”

As the Supreme Court takes up the constitutionality of the law, the decision could have a huge effect on messaging this cycle, too.

“If any shred of this is unconstitutional, we have a tombstone vote for Democrats and the entire race could be defined by this,” GOP consultant Jeff Roe said.

That is, if Democrats can’t make it about the Ryan plan first.

This is Roll Call’s look at five races in which the health care issue will matter this cycle.

Senate Races


Claire McCaskill (D) Vs. Todd Akin (R), John Brunner (R) or Sarah Steelman (R)

Not long before McCaskill voted to finalize Obama’s health care bill into law, she criticized what she called the “Chicken Little” component of Congress.

“We have had a lot of Chicken Little around this building over the last few months: ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling,’” she said in March 2010 on the Senate floor, noting that the sky didn’t fall.

“As time goes on, people in America are going to realize this bill is not full of booby traps, it is full of good things that will reform health care.”  

Republicans hope that with that vote — and the one that made her the 60th vote for cloture on the Affordable Care Act — McCaskill ensured that the political sky will indeed fall on her this November. And the GOP and its allies will make sure, in a race that already would have been very close, voters know McCaskill was a strong supporter of the deeply unpopular law.

In the summer of 2010, 71 percent of almost
1 million Missouri voters supported Proposition C, which amended the state’s law to prohibit an individual mandate, the key part of the health care law that requires that people get health insurance or pay a fee. While the vote was ceremonial in nature — federal law trumps state law — it showed wide opposition to the law that McCaskill voted in favor of.

She’ll face the winner of a GOP contest between Rep. Todd Akin, businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman. And the victor is sure to hit her on Obamacare.

“When you’re talking about health care, it’s the government takeover and it’s the lack of real impact, especially on costs,” said Randall Gutermuth, a GOP pollster working with Brunner. He noted the latter attack could be particularly potent against McCaskill, who had said a primary reason she supported the bill was to bring down health care costs.

“It’s that she supported this massive government takeover of health care while, at the same time, voting to cut $500 billion from Medicare,” he said.

Akin said that he wasn’t sure health care would be the center of the GOP nominee’s attack against McCaskill but saw it as one place where “she is vulnerable.”

“I think it was very, very bad policy, but it’s also bad politics for Claire McCaskill to double down and support it,” he said.

Democrats pushed back.

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