Does Scott Brown's election doom healthcare?
The great morning-after question is rippling through Washington like the aftershock of a major earthquake, exposing huge rifts within the Democratic Party. The question: Does Republican Scott Brown's stunning win of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts doom healthcare?
To many Democrats, the bill is a victim of simple math. All 435 members of the House and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection in November, a fact that makes them acutely tuned to shifts in public opinion. With Brown campaigning as -- and representing -- the 41st vote against healthcare in the Senate, they're not sure they want to risk their own political necks for a proposal that is spurring a huge voter backlash.
“I think you can make a pretty good argument that healthcare might be dead,” said New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, a fierce advocate of the public option. Another New York liberal, Democrat Chuck Schumer, thinks discontent among Independents will force Democrats to de-emphasize healthcare to focus on what matters to voters -- jobs. "Our focus must be on jobs, the economy and delivering for the middle class," he said.
But at the White House, strategists are inclined to read the math differently. The liberal base is convinced that President Obama's mistake was to attempt to compromise with Republicans and that now's the time to return to his anti-establishment roots -- going after the health insurance companies, bashing the Wall Street bonus babies, becoming the fighting populist of campaign fame.
So despite Republican warnings that Massachusetts should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats, Obama will likely, as NPR's Juan Williams put it, "double down" on healthcare, using hard-ball Chicago tactics to muscle the bill to victory.
Or, as senior aide David Axelrod said on MSNBC. "It's not an option simply to walk away."
-- Johanna Neuman
Related items:Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. You can also go to our new Facebook fan page here.