Saturday, March 27, 2010

Will Health Care Reform Hurt Obama in 2012?

Polls show a lot of Americans opposed to or at least skeptical about health care reform. So how does health care reform affect President Obama's chances for reelection in 2012? Not as much as you might think.

Barack Obama won the 2008 election handily with 365 electoral votes to 173 for John McCain. If everyone in states like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas hates health care reform, that doesn't change the results of the election, as those states all voted Republican in 2008 and likely will again in 2012. Majorities in all 22 states that voted for John McCain can hate health care reform with no impact on the Presidential election result.

What matters is the 28 states that Barack Obama won. And there is a problem. First, those states are projected to lose 7 electoral votes due to the 2010 census. McCain states gained population relative to Obama states, so they will pick up electoral votes. If Barack Obama wins the same states again in 2012, he would win 358 to 180.

Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia are the three states Barack Obama won where health care reform is least popular. The Congressional delegations in those states voted against health care reform, and they will be campaigning for repeal. These three states will represent 66 electoral votes, so losing them in 2012 would make the electoral vote 292 to 246. Barack Obama still wins.

But there was also a big group of states where the Congressional delegations were split on health care reform. These count for 95 electoral votes and include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota. If Barack Obama were to lose all these states, he would lose the 2012 election 197 to 341.

These states run straight into middle America, and the Democratic strategy for 2012 better be to win these. Barack Obama came to the White House from Illinois, so the Midwest states should be the heart of his natural political base, And where did Barack Obama go after health care reform passed? Iowa. So he gets the picture.

Health care reform could cost Republicans some states they won in 2008. Arizona, North Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia represent 22 electoral votes and their Congressional delegations voted for health care reform.

A lot will happen before 2012, most particularly the fall 2010 Congressional elections. The Democrats expect to lose seats, and could very well lose the House and possibly even the Senate. But that could strengthen Barack Obama, in the way that the loss of House and Senate to Republicans in 1994 led to Bill Clinton's landslide reelection in 1996.

No comments: