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Ben Nelson in trouble back home

nelsonwalk.JPGParochialism and power don't seem to be protecting Ben Nelson's that much, as a new poll out of Nebraska shows him at 30 percent in a hypothetical match-up against the sitting Republican governor, Dave Heineman.

In part, this is just evidence that Nelson, unlike Lieberman or Snowe, is really in a tough position. He's from a legitimately conservative state, but he's not in the conservative party. A solid 64 percent of Nebraskans disapprove of health-care reform, and the situation was worsened by Nelson's polarizing last-minute deal to protect Nebraska from Medicaid costs: Only 17 percent of Nebraskans approve of the free money Nebraska got. Whether this will convince vulnerable Democrats against demanding bribes to support controversial legislation or whether it'll convince vulnerable Democrats not to support the legislation altogether remains to be seen. And so, too, does whether this actually matters for Nelson, who's not up for reelection until 2012 anyway.

Photo credit: Harry Hamburg/AP.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 29, 2009; 1:01 PM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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Next: Attacking the excise tax -- and cost control


This signals a real possibility that the legislation will die before it reaches the President's desk.

Posted by: scarlota | December 29, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I'd be concerned if this weren't coming from the Fox News of pollsters. The day a Rasmussen poll shows favorable results for a Democrat is the day Republicans REALLY know they're in trouble.

Posted by: eleander | December 29, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

*****This signals a real possibility that the legislation will die before it reaches the President's desk*****

Unlikely. US Senators have access to sophisticated polling. It's not like the unpopularity of the Democratic brand in Nebraska these days is sudden news to Ben Nelson. More likely, he figures A) by 2012 HCR will have faded as an issue and the economy will have improved -- making one's ties to Obama a net plus; and, B) if he stiffs the Dems on healthcare he'll face a primary challenge AND he can forget about support from the DNC or the White House or the Democratic base.

Plus, he may be thinking he can do a bit of obfuscatin' by voting against the conference report after the last cloture vote is finished, when the bill only needs fifty votes.

If Nelson were facing the voters in 2010, this would be a very different situation. Fortunately he's not.

Posted by: Jasper99 | December 29, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Plus, what eleander said. I think we can expect that -- coincidence of coincidences! -- Rasmussen will be doing lots of polling on the Arkansas and Louisiana and Indiana Senate race outlook, too.

Posted by: Jasper99 | December 29, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The ad buy in Nebraska has been huge and wasteful. Probably 3 commercials an hour condeming Nelson for supporting HCR airing last week (many of those commercials apparently recorded to be used for prior to 12/24 were still being aired after, to further emphasize the waste). However, Nebraskans tend to be contrarian and can reliably be predicted to do the opposite of whatever the out-of-state ad buy tells them to do (people are very, very sick of those commercials). Being seen as beholden to state interests is vastly preferential to being seen as beholden to the commercials sponsored by out-of-towners. That was the case earlier too, with all the public option commercials.

Also, remember that the Nelson compromise included what works out to be tax breaks for the insurance companies; something those companies will remember come re-election. And, also, Nebraska can split their electoral votes and the district with Omaha - i.e., where the most money is - went to Obama.

So, sure, he may not currently have a lot of support for one bill that won't affect many people; but he does have time and money. Even though he's awful, his job is safe.

Posted by: ThomasEN | December 29, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Just returned from the great state of NE yesterday. I would like to add to your analysis that the NE Democrats I know (I spoke to 7 so that's probably all of them) are not happy with Nelson's shenanigans with the health care bill. So, Nelson probably lost support from both NE Democrats and Republicans on this issue.

Posted by: ideallydc | December 29, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Oh! I'll also add that no one I spoke to was aware that Nelson had won NE Medicaid money.

Posted by: ideallydc | December 29, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

"And so, too, does whether this actually matters for Nelson, who's not up for reelection until 2012 anyway."

Crucial point.

Nebraskans largely disapprove of the healthcare bill because of Republican lies and myths. Once they actually experience it -- how much better and more secure it makes their lives, that it doesn't turn health care into some Soviet caricature -- a strong majority will like it very much. So the sooner the bill gets up and running so that people can actually experience it for themselves, the better for Ben Nelson.

And this shows one of the most harmful things about the filibuster -- it makes it so hard to try and see, and thus so easy for Republican lies and myths to live and thrive.

For more on this please see:

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | December 29, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

If I were Nelson I would get rid of the "medicaid forever" during conference and only have it in place for 3-4 years as a few other states have it. If he does this then people will forget and move on.

Also, if I were Ben Nelson I would push really hard so that many of the benefits will be there in 2010 and beyond so that by 2012 people will appreciate health care reform.

It is really that simple.

Posted by: maritza1 | December 29, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

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