Assessing the effect of Mediscare on the 2012 election cycle.

One of the more… interesting… beliefs that seems to have spread along the Online Left lately is that their forthcoming campaigning against Paul Ryan’s budget reforms (henceforth to be sneeringly dismissed as ‘Mediscare’) is a clear winner for them. And if you ask them why, the members of the Online Left who are smart enough to avoid saying “Because we think that the population of the USA is made up primarily of idiots*” will instead say “Because we’ve been winning special elections with that issue.”


…Really? OK. Let’s look at the special elections for the 112th Congress, then.

Below is a table of all six special House elections conducted to date: the asterisks represent races where the seat more or less no longer exists in a meaningful form due to redistricting (although, truth be told, that could be pretty much most seats at this point). Cook is, of course, the latest (08/02) Cook Political Report on House races.

District Old Reason New PVI GOP/Dem Cook
AZ-08 Giffords Retired Barber R+4 Dem Kept Likely D*
CA-36 Harman Retired Han D+12 Dem Kept Safe D
NV-02 Heller Senate Amodei R+5 GOP Kept Safe R
NY-09 Weiner Scandal Turner D+5 GOP Flip Null*
NY-26 Lee Scandal Hochul R+6 Dem Flip Toss-Up*
OR-01 Wu Scandal Bonamici D+8 Dem Kept Safe D

With me so far? Good; let’s look at each race in turn.

  • AZ-08: Medicare brought up, yes. Whether that was more important than the fact that the Democratic candidate was a senior Giffords staffer wounded in the assassination attempt on the Congresswoman is, to put it mildly, debatable. Democrats kept the seat.
  • CA-36: D+12. Pretty much enough said; the Democrats pretty much needed to avoid a major scandal to keep the seat, and they did.
  • NV-02: Well, the Democratic candidate certainly tried to Mediscare. Didn’t work. GOP kept the seat.
  • NY-09: …Look, much as I’d love to claim the win on this one on our party’s superior political kung fu, the truth is: Anthony Weiner showed his, and that pretty much guaranteed the flip.
  • NY-26: This is the one that the Democrats are thinking of when they think that Mediscare works as a campaign tactic. Two problems with that: one, Chris Lee was also caught in public showing half-naked pictures of himself (thankfully, half-naked from the waist up); two, incumbent Kathy Hochul is widely considered to be, well, toast.
  • OR-01: this one is interesting (aside from former Democratic Rep. David Wu’s ‘go nuts and dress like a tiger’ method of stress release), as the Republican candidate actually tried to target the Democratic candidate with wanting to cut Medicare. Didn’t work, although that might have just been the D+8 talking.

So… Mediscare works! Except when it doesn’t. Which is apparently… all the time, particularly when it comes to flipping seats. Put another way: there’s a reason why the notoriously Democratic-leaning PolitiFact called “Republicans voted to end Medicare” the 2011 Lie of the Year. And it would seem that arguing otherwise doesn’t seem to have been very much practical help to Democrats in actual elections since the 112th Congress started…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*It is not, by the way.


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