October 16, 2010


What's the Matter with Oregon?: Why hasn't Republican law professor Jim Huffman gained traction in his race against Senator Ron Wyden? (JOHN MCCORMACK, 10/16/10, Weekly Standard)

Wyden is a pretty popular senator. According to the Rasmussen poll, his favorability rating is 55% (38% very favorable, 17% somewhat favorable), and his unfavorable rating is 38% (14% somewhat, 24% very). "It would take a significant investment in all media markets to drive those negatives to where they need to be to make Wyden vulnerable," says one GOP strategist. True enough. Money spent on a long shot in Oregon can't be spent on races that are neck-and-neck--Washington, West Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, California, Illinois.

But if you're going to compete in the next tier of states, wouldn't it make sense to throw money at Oregon? Joe DioGuardi trails Kirsten Gillibrand by 16 points in New York, but it would cost much more to go on air in the Empire State. Linda McMahon already has enough money to saturate the airwaves in Connecticut. Christine O'Donnell, down 17.6 points in the RCP average but just 11 in Rasmussen, already has high name recognition and $4 million of her own money raised online.

It's unlikely that Huffman will beat Wyden, but in a wave election, it just might be worth taking a shot on Oregon.

...Senator Wyden will be the key to the coming reform of Obamacare along more Third Way lines, Wyden's Third Way: The Oregon senator questions the wisdom of a government health insurance plan. (COLLIN LEVY , 6/22/09, WSJ)
[T]he Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act relies on the private insurance market while imposing a series of regulations to squeeze savings from the private sector. It also requires individuals to buy coverage for themselves, the controversial "individual mandate."

The idea, Mr. Wyden says, is to harness the Democratic desire to get everyone covered to the Republican interest in markets and consumer choice. "Everything I've been up to with this coalition is designed to make reconciliation irrelevant," he explains, referring to a political maneuver whereby Democrats might try to force through health reform on a bare majority of 51 votes rather than the filibuster-proof 60 votes normally required.

"People can't be tricked into fixing health care." If you want to bring the country together, he continues, you have to aim for 70 votes and the kind of bipartisan strength that the Healthy Americans Act has with 14 senators sponsoring the bill. "If you . . . just pound it through on a partisan vote, you don't have that kind of consensus. You have people practically as soon as the ink is dry looking to have it repealed."

Mr. Wyden knows he is walking a wobbly tightrope between the factions. At Oregon town-hall meetings six years ago, he remembers, "you'd have a bunch of people get up and talk about single payer, and a lot of applause." He claps to demonstrate. Then someone else would say, "We don't want that, we had a cousin who lived in Canada, they had to come to the U.S. to get treated because they couldn't get good care. And then both of these groups would look sullenly at each other."

When he first approached Bob Bennett in early 2007 about a compromise plan based on the kind of coverage members of Congress get, he got a similarly unenthused response. Mr. Wyden puts on a deep, croaky Bob Bennett voice and repeats words that Mr. Bennett would later use to characterize his reaction: "I told Ron Wyden I'd look at his proposal." Smiling, Mr. Wyden says, "As Senator Bennett describes it, that's the closest thing you get in the United States Senate to a 'no.'"

Mr. Bennett ultimately came around to the idea, but a lot of Republicans remained dubious. "People kind of looked at him like it was all a kind of big socialist plot. And he basically said, get over it, they've got a point."

"Both parties have come a long way," says Mr. Wyden. "The most conservative Republicans accept the idea that they didn't accept in '93, that you've got to cover everybody to organize the market," he says. "If you don't . . . there's too much cost-shifting, not enough prevention." And some Democrats are seeing the wisdom of a market system where people will benefit if they make wise selections about their care.

Mr. Wyden takes a long view: "Ever since the 1940s, we essentially disconnected individuals from being involved in health care. It's all about third parties, and they pay all the bills and individuals don't have the opportunities for the choices. In fact, millions of people who are lucky enough to have employer coverage don't get any choice."

Sadly, the GOP's lunatic fringe purged Senator Bennett.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2010 8:18 AM
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