It has been widely assumed that for Republican state attorney general running for higher office, one of the boxes you have to check is suing the federal government to have the new health care reform law overturned. But could it be that doing so won’t actually gain any political payoff from the party base?
Looking at the attorneys general who are fighting the new law at the same time as they are on the ballot this year, they are running into a set of mixed results with some winning and some losing — just like any other bunch of politicians, ranging from the folks who are in trouble to the ones who win easily.
This is not to say that fighting the health care bill is hurting these guys with the base. It’s even possible that they would be worse off if they hadn’t sued. But what we are saying is that it isn’t helping them much, either.
Let’s first take a look at the hard cases:
Take a look at Tuesday’s primary in South Carolina, where Attorney General Henry McMaster boasted in his gubernatorial campaign that he was protecting “South Carolina’s sovereignty, “standing tall for states’ rights,” and opposing Obama on health care. McMaster came in third place with 17%, failing to make the GOP runoff.
And in Florida, state Attorney General Bill McCollum joined the lawsuits at a time when he was the presumptive Republican nominee for governor at time he joined the lawsuits. But no longer. He is now trailing in a new poll against self-financing former health care executive Rick Scott — who is touting his own opposition to the health care bill, and the activism he spearheaded during the debates.
In Michigan, state Attorney General Mike Cox is running for governor in a five-way Republican primary. And he has not broken out of the pack. The TPM Poll Average currently has him running in third place with 17.6%, behind Rep. Pete Hoekstra at 24.4% and businessman Rick Snyder with 18.5%.
And last but not least, look at Alabama Attorney General Troy King, who joined the lawsuits — he already lost his primary to Luther Strange, an attorney and the 2006 GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, by a margin of 60%-40%. (Strange’s campaign was based on King allegedly not doing a good enough job in fighting public corruption. It should be noted that he also favors suing against the health care law.)
Other state attorneys general have done better:
• Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett easily won his gubernatorial primary with 69% of the vote against a right-wing opponent, and for now is favored to win the general election — though this was true before the lawsuits began, as well.
• Greg Abbott of Texas renominated unopposed.
• Jon Bruning of Nebraska was renominated unopposed.
• Lawrence Wasden of Idaho was renominated unopposed.
• John Suthers of Colorado has not yet been officially renominated in his primary, which will be held in August, but not does not have an opponent.
In the key data points of attorneys general who were in seriously contested races, it doesn’t look like the lawsuits are providing much of a boost.