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Thursday, 24 October 2013 11:20
Obamacare meltdown hurts Landrieu, helps Dr. Cassidy in Louisiana
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landrieu-blueVeteran political observer John Maginnis declared that the partial government shutdown of the first half of October produced no real political winners or losers among Louisiana federal government elected officials.


He’s quite correct, but the real story is how this will be a non-issue compared to the ongoing issue and the reverberating ramifications of the internal contradictions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) on the fortunes of Senate candidates.

Maginnis notes that while polling data in Louisiana, from the Democrat-aligned firm Public Policy Polling, conducted toward the end of that period showed by 47-32 percent respondents were less likely to want to vote for GOP Senate candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy and gave incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu a 48-41 lead, data from the Republican-oriented firm Harper Polling revealed Landrieu led only 46-44 and 45 percent said they would vote for a Republican for Senate while just 41 percent for a Democrat. This poll, however, was conducted just before Oct. 1.

Interestingly, the PPP numbers actually improved for Cassidy from the middle of August, when he was supposedly down to Landrieu by 10 points and he gained a point in projected vote. Further, the latest still showed Landrieu could not crack 50 percent approval among voters; historically, incumbents who cannot do this a year from an election almost always end up losing. And this was with Cassidy rated unknown by 55 percent of voters and the 45 percent who ventured a likeability rating on Cassidy about split; typically, as quality challengers become better known, they gain proportionally more in liking than disliking among voters, to the detriment of the incumbent’s vote share.

Actually, when reviewing the demographics of the August PPP poll and September Harper poll (PPP has not publicly released its October internal numbers), they come out pretty much the same. There’s really only one difference between the two: PPP surveys registered voters, while Harper surveys likely voters. And that’s why in a midterm election the PPP numbers must be viewed more skeptically.

While Harper was not formed until 2012, PPP had a middling-to-bad record in 2010 final projections (using an accuracy model developed by veteran political scientist pollsters). Middling because overall it was in the middle of the pack aggregating all contests, but bad especially in Senate contests where it missed several contests outside of the 5 percent margin of error. This can be attributed directly to its sampling model because in midterm elections, and especially so in 2010, disproportionately the high information, high interest voters show up and this is better reflected in sampling of likely voters as opposed to registered voters.

PPP actually did well in 2012 precisely because in that contest disproportionately the low information, low interest voters turned out compared not just to midterm elections, but to all federal elections. Indeed, for the first time in presidential election history, blacks voted at a higher rate than whites, with the former group jacked about having self-identifying black Pres. Barack Obama on the ballot, and the latter somewhat discouraged to see a candidate not entirely willing or able to provide a choice rather than an echo to Obama, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Keep in mind that blacks as a whole demonstrate significantly less knowledge about politics and knowledgeable individuals are more likely to turn out to vote than those with less knowledge about politics, particularly in an environment of lower election salience (such as midterm elections with no presidential contest at the top of the ballot).

But PPP’s accuracy will suffer again in 2014 if it continues to use a model better suited for 2012 than 2010 in its polling, as it appears to be doing. Thus, its projections about the Louisiana Senate race will appear consistently over-optimistic for Landrieu, especially considering how troubling are the other internal numbers that overall make her no better than even money to win again.

And, the arcane aside, even more likely to have Cassidy emerge as the favorite over the next few months is that the shutdown issue, regardless of who gets blame if any, will be on no one’s mind by the end of the year, and will not be for the election no matter how many times it reappears over the next year, because the only people who really even care about it are die-hard partisans who will not vote for the other party’s candidate anyway. But the issue that will move independents and weak partisans will be like herpes to Democrats: the gift that keeps on giving known as Obamacare.

Lost in Democrats’ feeble explanations about technology shortcomings and the fanciful hope that if somehow those issues get fixed that all will be well for the wholly-owned Democrat policy is a blindness to the fact that infrastructure woes serve as a metaphor for and extension of the rottenness of the entire idea. It’s so complicated because Obamacare is universal health care, possessing all of the agonies it brings in terms of higher costs with worse outcomes, with a human mask on it to make it seem decent. It entrapped the private sector to provide this product with the public as forced consumers to obscure the heavy hand of government in this and placed as much emphasis on redistribution of wealth as it did on care provision, with naked favoritism towards favored political constituencies while it flipped the bird at everybody else – and it’s not even universal by far. It’s no wonder designing a web platform to reflect these meandering goals that made care provision secondary demands such complexity.

And this will be in the news day after day for the rest of the election cycle, only just beginning with the technical glitches. As 2014 unfolds, horror stories will resonate daily across the country and in Louisiana, as a result of Obamacare people losing insurance, paying much more for health care, and being unable to see doctors or have procedures scheduled in timely fashion, which only will snowball as the year passes by. And it will be the easiest thing for Cassidy to demand accountability from Landrieu for being the crucial vote to have let it all happen.

As a medical doctor with extensive public hospital experience and no shortage of campaign funds, Cassidy will be in excellent position to campaign to prevent Landrieu from protecting herself from the building explosion. Were it a presidential election year, she might get extra low information, low interest voters to act as sandbags against the electoral wave that, if Cassidy knows what he’s doing, that will build against her. But it isn’t, and that makes her exceptionally vulnerable.

Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines

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