Olympia Snowe Vs. Ben Nelson
A lot of people are concerned that Sen. Olympia Snowe is going to have an outsized role on health-care reform. It's a fair concern. Indeed, it's a virtual certainty. But it's worth comparing Snowe's outsized role to the alternative: Ben Nelson, the 60th least-liberal Democrat, being in the driver's seat on health-care reform.
Snowe represents Maine, which gave 58 percent of its vote to Barack Obama. Nelson represents Nebraska, which gave 57 percent of its vote to John McCain. Polls out of Maine show heavy support for health-care reform in general, and the public option in particular. Polls out of Nebraska show heavy opposition to health-care reform in general, and the public option in particular.
In other words, you'd much rather have the crucial moderate hailing from Maine than from Nebraska.
Now, representational concerns are often less important than partisan concerns: Tom Harkin wants a liberal health-care bill while Chuck Grassley wants a conservative health-care bill, even though both of them represent Iowa. In that case, party and ideology is clearly stronger than constituency. But Snowe has already proven her willingness to break with her party on health-care reform, so it's fairly clear that her personal politics, and those of her state, are more determinative than her party's desires.
If that's indeed the case, then Snowe's state is much more liberal than Nelson's state, and Snowe, by most accounts, is more liberal than Nelson, at least on health care. The compromise she's likely to detail will probably be substantially to the left of the compromise Nelson is likely to detail. In addition to that, she's already got her fingerprints on the Senate Finance Committee's bill, and won't feel like she has to move that document to the right to demonstrate the fruits of her involvement. Nelson hasn't been involved in any of the bills, and would probably attempt to broker a whole new compromise if he were the decisive vote.
Photo credit: By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post
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