Now that the health care vote has taken place, we move into the post-mortem phase. For the past several months, as Democrats struggled to get this bill passed, the conventional wisdom has been that the 2010 midterms were going to be a bloodbath. Democrats will lose massive numbers of seats, the reasoning goes, possibly jeopardizing their majorities in both chambers. In the end, this may indeed be what happens, and I would bet that seats will be lost (although not necessarily because of health care).
However, what happens if the conventional wisdom (as is so often the case) turns out to be wrong? In the last day or so we've started to see evidence, both anecdotally and through polling, that health care reform may indeed prove to be quite popular and a net-plus for Democrats. President Obama is beginning a massive barnstorming push to sell the bill and we even have some Republicans taking credit for some of the bill's provisions.
In the run up to the vote, a lot of ink was spent talking about which Democrats might be the most vulnerable as a result of health care. The focus was on those Democrats who hail from districts also won by John McCain in 2008. In the end, of those 49 House Democrats, 31 voted against the bill. In a similar vein, Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com created this simple graphic that shows a pretty strong correlation between Obama's success in a district and how that member ultimately voted.
In this spirit, I decided to focus on the other side of the aisle. Rather than look at vulnerable Democrats, I wonder if there might be some Republicans who--should health care reform prove to be popular and a winner politically--might suffer as a result of their vote? The table at the top of this post shows those Republicans who represent House districts won by President Obama. I've included not only Obama's vote percentage but also the member's to provide a sense of relative popularity as well as the member's seniority. If we were to target which of these member's might have the most to fear, it would be those 1) whose own level of support is closest to Obama's--there are 10 members who received the same % of the vote or less than Obama; or 2) have less seniority in Congress. Usually members are most vulnerable earlier in their career, before they have the chance to build up a strong constituent base of support and familiarity. The final column of the table also might provide some indication of danger in that it highlights how salient the lack of health insurance might be to a district. Thanks to this Washington Post graphic, we can determine how much of a district lacks health insurance. If the number is sizable, and the member seems not to appreciate this, a "no" vote could prove problematic down the road.
Again, I'm not arguing definitively that this is how things will play out, but its always worth asking whether the dominant narrative is wrong.