Why Endangered Democrats Are Thanking Paul Ryan

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Clearly, health care reform was a losing political issue for lots of congressional Democrats, especially those who were up for reelection in 2010. The issue helped mobilize Republican voters who managed to unseat enough Democrats to shift the balance of power on Capitol Hill. Democrats lost their Senate super majority and Republicans now hold a majority in the House. A new political science paper now offers evidence of the damage the Affordable Care Act did to Democratic power, arguing that the party could have held onto 25 more House seats and therefore a simple House majority if they hasn’t passed the health care law.

Vulnerable Democrats who supported the ACA and are up for reelection this year don’t want to see a repeat of 2010 and are preemptively looking to define their health care votes in new terms. Sen. Claire McCaskill, one such Democrat, is defending her vote for the health care law by pointing to an unlikely source – Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, which he proposed at part of the House GOP’s 2012 budget last spring, would turn the program into a system of government subsidies/vouchers for seniors to purchase private health plans. Sound familiar? Yes, this is essentially the same system the Affordable Care Act will put in place for currently uninsured non-seniors who won’t qualify for Medicaid. This has been pointed out before, including by me, but McCaskill is doing something new in highlighting the similarities between the ACA and the Ryan plan to defend herself from critics.

While the Ryan-Obamacare message could blunt some criticism of McCaskill, the incumbent may be slightly less vulnerable than it appears. The Hill reports that the party is trying to recruit a new GOP candidate, despite the fact that three others have already thrown their hats in the ring.