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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Don't Get Fooled By High Expectations - Stay On Course For 2018

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 06/22/17 14:57

by Dave Mindeman

Democrats are always litigating themselves. They truly are their own worst enemy. I have been puzzled by the recent analysis of the special elections. Apparently, Democrats were supposed to win these all along?

What's the authority on that?

Yes, the Georgia race had a lot of attention and the Democrat had some moments that looked like a win was in the offing. But still - all this hand wringing is perplexing.

Let's look at the actual numbers....

Compare the 2016 election figures with the 2017 special elections...

Kansas-4: 2016 R+31 - 2017 R+7

Montana: 2016 R+16 - 2017 R+6

South Carolina-5: 2016 R+20 - 2017 R+3

Georgia-6: 2016 R+24 - 2017 - R+4

All four went from blowouts to single digit wins. These districts have never been close. They have been Republican dominated for a long time. And these Congressional members were selected because they essentially came from "safe" districts and would not weaken the House majority.

And the DCCC came a little late to the party in all of them except for the Georgia 6th District. They contested that one heavily - and the national Democrats stepped on the local message that Ossoff was trying to deliver.

The South Carolina district is especially galling because a good candidate ran without DCCC support and came within 3 points.

Now, the pundits have analyzed this as a Democratic failure. They seem to be assuming that these were wins that were out there for the taking. But when you have gerrymandered districts like these entrenched in place, they are not supposed to be contests. These are safe Republican zones and the GOP had to spend serious resources to keep them.

Yeah, maybe Democrats are still searching for a resonant message. Maybe they need to rethink how the Trump factor really fits in. But the idea that these could ALL be single digit contests has its own meaning.

First, red districts are not guaranteed to the GOP in 2018. It would be wise for the Democrats to put resources everywhere they can.

Second, this is not about ideologic purity. The standard axiom still applies. Support a candidate that fits the demographics of the district. Yes, it would be nice to have more progressive candidates, but too many times a progressive candidate cannot win in regions like the south. We profess to be a big tent...so our candidates need to look that way as well.

Third, although Trump has altered the landscape, standard practice still applies in most cases. We need to identify our voters and we also should be looking to expand beyond that in certain areas. Trump has a consolidated base but he has ignored the expansion of it. He only caters to his support - independents should be up for grabs.

2018 is still very much in play. Let's not reinvent the wheel just because we let our expectations get out of hand. The fact that these deep red districts ended up being contestable races means that less red places can be won.

Democrats are not the enemy or the problem - we need to stay on course.

Jason Lewis: A Partisan Defense Of His UGLY Health Care Vote

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 05/13/17 15:24, Edited: 05/13/17 15:25

by Dave Mindeman

Jason Lewis defended his health care vote...not in front of his constituents but in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It was titled:

Jason Lewis: Challenge these myths about the GOP health care bill

OK, let's discus his challenge.

1. Myth #1: Obamacare is working.

Really? How bad does it have to get for some in the media to finally shed their partisan defense of this failed experiment in government-controlled health care? Obamacare is collapsing all around us with average premiums rising by double digits nationwide.

He uses the term "partisan defense"...which should clue you in right away that Lewis considers this political rather than really about health care. But let's discuss Obamacare. Premiums have been in flux ever since Obamacare went into place. Insurers did not know how the marketplace would shake out. Many opted with a very optimistic view and were burned by the obvious increase in people with higher care maintenance - something they should have known because they were the ones denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But CNN Money put it this way:

Many, though not all, insurers have finally figured out how much to charge for coverage on the exchanges, said Paul Lambdin, who leads Deloitte Consulting's exchange practice for health plans. They are now on firmer footing after instituting big rate hikes for this year.

Yeah, those hikes were large - especially in the individual market - but it was more or less a return to the persistent health care increases that were pre-Obamacare. The big advantage is that Obamacare added a huge increase in the number of people covered. So, not working? Depends on your "partisan" view.

Myth #2: The AHCA denies pre-existing conditions.

Not only does the bill contain guaranteed-issue protections, it also requires guaranteed renewability. Right now, everyone is effectively priced "as if they are sick." By undoing Obamacare's price controls, the ACHA finally halts the "death spiral" of rising premiums and falling enrollment -- especially for young people. No individual can be charged more for any reason unless they stop paying their premiums. In fact, this provision is nearly identical to the continuous coverage requirement for group plans under HIPAA -- the two-decade-old law championed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

It is important to note the Kennedy Amendment. That was a guarantee of coverage that pre-dates Obamacare...and it is THE ONLY REASON that the AHCA doesn't blow up pre-existing conditions altogether. But it does damage this Obamacare guarantee. The AHCA gives states an opt-out option that can give insurers the old option to deny coverage for a pre-existing condition. They will lobby states for this because it is very profitable for them. And I expect that Red States will get the poorer coverages and Blue States will keep the Obamacare guarantees in place.

Myth #3: There's not enough money in the high-risk pools to take care of the sick.

The MacArthur/Upton Amendment adds $8 billion on top of the $130 billion available through the AHCA's "Stability" and "Invisible" risk pool programs. This reduces out-of-pocket costs like premiums, deductibles and co-pays and increases access to other services. Alaska and Maine were able to vastly improve health-care access with far less money when they were granted waivers to adopt similar high-risk pools.

It is interesting that Lewis touts "risk pools" as some kind of saving grace for the AHCA. Obamacare had those same protections in place until the GOP via Marco Rubio stripped them out....and they knew that this would cause all sorts of problems eventually. So now, Lewis is praising the GOP for reinstating something they messed up in the first place. Frankly, if the GOP would have reinstated these pools into Obamacare, this would have gone a long way to fix many of the problems that have happened within the individual market.

Myth #4: Congress has exempted itself from the AHCA

This is a doozy and one of the most duplicitous charges coming from the AHCA's harshest critics. Under 'budget reconciliation' rules in the Senate, provisions on how legislation affects members of Congress could not be included in the AHCA. There of course was never any intent to exempt Congress so Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced a simple two-page standalone bill that statutorily applied the law to all members. The measure passed the House by a vote of 429-0.

Glad Jason gives himself a pat on the back for this one, but as usual his explanation is a little too self serving. What he says here is true, yes, but the McSally proposal was instituted after numerous watch dog groups pointed out the fact that this issue existed, and long before the bill was passed. Now, who knows if they were planning to fix this all along....it is just interesting that until this was public knowledge, there was no McSally amendment.

Myth #5: The AHCA removes vital health benefits and cuts off coverage for women's services.

The ten Essential Health Benefits are now the default option in the law. States applying for a waiver must first show how their benefit requirements will increase healthcare coverage, and no state, under any circumstance, may apply for a waiver that denies dependents being included on a family plan up to age 26 or allows discrimination on the basis of gender.

The Essential Health Benefits IS the default option, but this bill would not have passed a Republican House if the "opt out" provisions had not been put in place. The decision on whether the states can mess with these provisions lies in the hands of HHS Secretary Tom Price - who has never been friendly to the Obamacare guarantees. Lewis is not giving us the whole picture here.


So there you have it. The Jason Lewis defense of his awful vote on the health care bill. It is a weak to non-existent defense, but it is worth the spin, because people are not keeping up with the facts on health care.

One more thing to point out, which is the real cause of the health care premium fluctuations....(From CNN Money)

Insurers are nervous that the Trump administration and Congress will weaken or eliminate the individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to have coverage or pay a penalty. The mandate also lures younger, healthier people to sign up for policies. Insurers depend on these folks to offset the costs of older, sicker customers.

These worries are on top of all the uncertainty over the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare in Congress. The House bill, which senators are now looking to overhaul, would radically change the individual market. Just a few of insurers' concerns: eliminating the individual mandate and cost-sharing subsidies, as well as replacing Obamacare subsidies with tax credits that are less generous for many Americans.

Two major insurance industry lobbying groups, along with organizations representing doctors, hospitals and patients, have expressed serious concerns about the bill. Among their worries is the legislation will render insurance unaffordable for millions.

When the insurance lobbyists and virtually all of the medical profession are against this bill...you have a bad bill. The fix to Obamacare would have been simpler and clearer than anything this Trumpcare travesty will do.

Thank you Jason Lewis for that AWFUL, UGLY vote...against the interests of your constituents.

Minnesota: A Look At 2018 Elections

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 04/28/17 11:35, Edited: 04/28/17 12:31

by Dave Mindeman

I know its early for speculating, but 2018 is going to be a very important election year for Democrats. We have to be in the right place for the right time. So here goes:

1. MN Governor - Democrat.

Here are the declared candidates. Rep. Tina Liebling (Rochester area), Rep. Erin Murphy, St. Paul, Chris Coleman, St. Paul Mayor, Rebecca Otto, current state auditor, and Rep. Tim Walz, 1st Congressional district.

Early speculation has Tim Walz as the front runner. After all it is quite a feat to have the support of Collin Peterson and R.T. Rybak at the same time. Walz has never run state wide but he has good name recognition. He has rural credentials, and for Democrats in 2018, that will be a topic of conversation. Rebecca Otto has run successfully state wide as a 3 term State Auditor. That has to be a plus. She has excellent environmental cred. Her background there will be a metro plus, but maybe a negative in the 8th District. I am not criticizing, it's just a fact. Frankly, she has been consistent in her views and that has not been the case with others. Rep. Erin Murphy is a long time St. Paul legislator. Good health care background, but low name recognition outstate. She declared the earliest and seems to have developed a good network to work with. Hard working campaigner. Mayor Chris Coleman has been a very successful St. Paul mayor. He has accomplished a lot of big things for his city and that gives him a solid executive background. But he is an urban mayor and you have to wonder if that will translate outside the metro area. Rep. Tina Leibling will have tougher name recognition. She has a reputation as a principled fighter for Democratic causes, but right now she seems like a regional candidate - and even that is split by Walz popularity.

2. MN Governor - Republican

There are only 3 declared candidates for now. Christopher Chamberlin is one of those fringe candidates with no elective office experience. Doesn't seem like a factor yet. Blake Huffman is a Ramsay County Commissioner with little name recognition outside of St. Paul. Again, not a factor yet. The first higher profile candidate is Rep. Matt Dean. He was a past GOP Majority leader in the House and has chaired several committees. He is known in GOP circles but not much state wide.

The big announcements are still coming. Jeff Johnson will probably make another run and Kurt Daudt has indicated a solid interest. But the GOP action will probably speed up after the legislative session.

3. Constitutional Offices

I expect that Steve Simon will run again for Secretary of State. He has done a great job and should be favored to win re-election. We will have to see which Republican decides to challenge him. State Auditor will probably be an open seat...and with the legislative attack on the position's power, it will be open speculation as to who will want to take on that challenge.

The biggest question, however, is Attorney General. It is widely believed that Lori Swanson will announce as a candidate for Governor in the near future. I think she is waiting to see more of the field, but it hasn't been much of a secret that she is looking at this seriously. Several legislators have already set up campaigns for replacing her if she decides to run. John Lesch and former Rep. Ryan Winkler are the two biggest names in that regard. Democrats should be strong here either way.

4. Congressional Races

If Tim Walz is the candidate for Governor, that leaves the 1st as an open seat. This will be a Democratic problem because Walz had a narrow victory last time and his opponent Jim Hagedorn is already running again. Hagedorn is not a great candidate, so it will be important to get a solid Democrat to try and hold this seat. This will be a priority race.

In the 2nd District, we are expected a Craig-Lewis rematch. Nothing official on that yet, but Angie will probably get full support to make that second run.

In the 3rd District, Erik Paulsen has been a target for the Indivisible groups and the search is on for a high profile challenger. Frankly, it is too bad that Rebecca Otto does not live in the 3rd, because she would be perfect. Maybe she could pull a Jason Lewis????? Anyway, the hope is that someone will emerge at some point.

In the 4th and 5th, McCollum and Ellison are looking to return.

In the 6th, Tom Emmer is pretty good shape right now, but he is heavily tied to Trump fortunes. And if the President continues his current path, Emmer could get dragged down with him. Hopefully, we will be able to field a solid challenger. I think this is Otto's district, so maybe she will keep that in mind???

In the 7th, Collin Peterson is running again. He will be challenged but it is less likely to be a problem in 2018.

In the 8th we have a situation. Rick Nolan is also toying with a run for Governor and that would put the 8th District in serious jeopardy. Not only would Stewart Mills come back for another try if Nolan isn't there, but there is now speculation that Kurt Daudt may throw his hat in the 8th District instead of a Governor run. A Nolan decision to opt for a governor run would set a number of wheels in motion - and maybe bring out Tom Bakk in a run for Congress as well. A lot of eyes are on the 8th.

I think that sums up where we are at this moment. Like I said, the 2018 cycle is very, very important for Democrats. It is imperative that we take back the legislative House and that we maintain a Democrat in the Governor's seat.

We have a lot riding on all of this, so pay attention and work hard.
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