The media was abuzz yesterday with reports of President Trump warning congressional Republicans of dire electoral consequences if they failed to pass the bill currently being considered to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“President Donald Trump warned House Republicans Tuesday if they can’t pass health care legislation after seven years of promises it could be a ‘bloodbath’ in the 2018 midterm election, according to one member present in the meeting.”
While it is hard to see that “bloodbath” taking out longtime Alaska Congressman Don Young (that would require some combination of Excalibur, the Infinity Gauntlet, and a blast from the Death Star), members of congress aren’t the only ones on the ballot in 2018.
As Daily KOS points out, 35 governor’s offices are up next year, including Alaska’s, and Trump and his agenda could have a big impact on those races:
“Republicans hold the governor’s mansion in 27 of these 38 states, amounting to 53 percent of the nation’s population. And 15 of these GOP governors face term limits or have announced they won’t seek re-election, depriving Republicans of the usual benefits of incumbency. By contrast, Democrats control just 10 states covering 31 percent of the population, and only four of those are open seats. (Alaska also has an independent governor who won in 2014 with Democratic support, but he has yet to announce his 2018 plans.)
“Midterm elections almost always see the president’s party lose seats downballot, especially when an administration is deeply unpopular. If the public’s dislike of Trump persists or worsens, Republicans could consequently see catastrophic gubernatorial losses in 2017 and 2018.”
Another problem complicating Alaska’s 2018 gubernatorial race is the fact that in 2015 current Independent Governor Bill Walker unilaterally acted to expand Medicaid in Alaska, a key component offered by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). And it was a very popular decision; even Republican polling showed over 60% of Alaskan voters approved of the move.
That is a fact not lost on Alaska’s senior Senator Lisa Murkowski, who yesterday made clear she won’t vote for any changes to Obamacare that backtrack on that move.
From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
“Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and three other Republican senators warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week that they will not support a replacement of the Affordable Care Act if it does not protect people who gained insurance coverage under the law’s Medicaid expansion provision.
“In the Monday letter to McConnell from Murkowski and Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Cory Gardner of Colorado, they said, ‘Medicaid covers more than 72 million Americans and is the core of the health care safety net for individuals across the country.’”
If Trump and the GOP-controlled congress can’t dismantle Obamacare as they have promised to do for years, they could face a combination of that “bloodbath” backlash — or at least a depressed turnout — from their rank-and-file conservative base while simultaneously raising the profile of the issue and handing Gov. Walker a powerful and popular issue to run on.
If, however, national Republicans are successful in their effort, and as a result repeal the Medicaid expansion — even over Sen. Murkowski’s strong objections — they will have to defend that unpopular move against Walker on the campaign trail.
Either way, this is a bad fight for the Alaska GOP and a development that bolsters Walker’s chances of winning a second term.