Take a good look around, Democrats, this is likely to be as bad as it’s going to get. As Kate Pickert and I note in a story out today on time.com, the 24-hour cable net cycle has been stuck on ugly process maneuverings in the vacuum of no score from the Congressional Budget Office and no bill. This meme just adds to the back room aura and sweetheart reputation the legislation has enjoyed for months. You’re getting hit on all sides – from the President, the Speaker, constituents, even donors. Oh, and, it turns out most folks really do hate you.
But, oh how quickly things can change. If you pass the bill, next week’s coverage is likely to trumpet triumph, the most productive legislative session since LBJ, an historic and seminal victory. It’s getting from here to there that’s the hard part – especially for those 12-20 swing votes under the most pressure. For them, especially the vulnerable ones, this might not be rock bottom: they may well lose reelection. On the other hand, as Paul Begala told the House Democratic Caucus yesterday, does anyone think that voters at the polls in November will remember self-executing rules and the Cornhusker kickback? They didn’t remember Tom DeLay’s arm twisting (which won him a reprimand from the House Ethics Committee) on the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, no matter how hard Dems tried to remind them. So, really, this whole process brouhaha is directed at those swing Democrats, attempting to scare them into bringing down the bill. Because, if Republicans really thought that passage of health care reform was going to be bad for Dems, would they be protesting quite so much right now? As Republicans used to say before the 2004 elections defending Medicare Part D, it’s hard to spend hundreds of billions of dollars expanding health care coverage and not have it be a net positive in the polls.