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Blood in the Water

August 31, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Politico leads of today with this story from Josh Kraushaar:

Experts See Double-Digit Dem Loss

After an August recess marked by raucous town halls, troubling polling data and widespread anecdotal evidence of a volatile electorate, the small universe of political analysts who closely follow House races is predicting moderate to heavy Democratic losses in 2010.

Some of the most prominent and respected handicappers can now envision an election in which Democrats suffer double-digit losses in the House — not enough to provide the 40 seats necessary to return the GOP to power but enough to put them within striking distance.

Kraushaar goes on to quote several top political analysts. Charlie Cook says a 50 percent chance of congressional Democrats losing more than 20 seats. Nate Silver sees the Dems losing 20-50 seats with a 1 in 4 chance of losing control of the House. Stuart Rothenberg also sees significant losses, but with a note of caution that it’s all contingent on a number of things that are still undecided, namely healthcare legislation and an economic recovery.

While the economic recovery is largely beyond of Congress’ influence at this point, healthcare legislation is just getting started. Ezra Klein says this is destroying the possibility of a truly bipartisan deal on healthcare:

When conceiving of a deal to offer Republicans, you have to ask why they would prefer that deal to a scenario in which they vastly strengthen their power in the Congress, and can thus demand better deals, and maybe even control the process going forward. All things being equal, Republicans would like to see malpractice reform. But would they like to see malpractice reform more than they’d like to defeat the health care bill and pick up dozens of seats, and maybe even control of the Congress? Probably not. But that’s the historical precedent of 1994, and the explicit premise of their current strategy. That’s the bar a policy deal has to pass if it’s going to be bipartisan – which is why the Senate leadership is increasingly looking at reconciliation, and the possibilities of a partisan deal.

On the other hand, this only strengthens the incentives for Democrats to pass a Democrats-only healthcare bill through the reconciliation process. If they go that route, there is no reason why they can’t get a bill with a public option through both chambers and signed into law. Doing so could re-energize the Democratic base, which has been in a bit of a daze in the face of the political realities following their huge victories in 2008.

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