Political fallout if the "private option' referendum makes it onto the ballot | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Political fallout if the "private option' referendum makes it onto the ballot

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 12:12 PM

We wondered yesterday whether Americans for Prosperity would get involved with the effort to bring a referendum on the "private option" for Medicaid expansion to the ballot in 2014. Conservative blogger Jason Tolbert tweets that AFP told him that they "typically don't do ballot initiatives" but "educate members." "Educating members" is typically just legalese from the 501(c)(3)s, so it will be interesting to see what role they take.

Michael Cook predicts that if the referendum makes it to the 2014 ballot, "it will cause numerous political headaches for Arkansas Republicans."

Responsible legislative Republicans leaders know that repealing the private option would be a financial and political disaster. The problem for Republicans is they’ll have to convince members of their own party to keep a portion of Obamacare intact, which creates a messaging problem, and makes their base unhappy.

How do Republican leaders convince voters that supporting Democrats means supporting Obamacare (which isn’t true, btw) while at the same time asking them to vote to support a major portion of Obamacare? Moreover, they’ll be fighting with members of their own party, not a fun position to be in come election time.

This sounds plausible, although all of the spinning and counter-spinning about what is or isn't Obamacare-ish may just be a muddle by November. A ballot initiative might also fire up the Tea Party base (though they seem permanently fired up, really) and it would keep "Obamacare" talk flowing in local races. Still, a scenario in which candidates feel obligated to take a stand on the question and the party is split could be a bit awkward.

What about the statewide races? Asa Hutchinson has said he would have signed the "private option" legislation so presumably he would oppose a repeal effort. Likely Senate candidate Tom Cotton seems like a natural fit for "private option" repeal but Rep. John Burris, one of the plan's architects and a strong advocate for the policy, is widely rumored to be a key figure that will work on Cotton's campaign.

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