Friday, January 08, 2010

Ben Nelson can Feel the Heat

The Wall Street Journal reports these headlines: "Heat Rises on Nebraska's Nelson...Senator Launches Ad Campaign at Home to Defend Key Vote on Health Bill." On the surface, this seems like odd headlines for a person who just figured out how to permanently provide "free health insurance" for his constituents.

The article points out that "Mr. Nelson, who faces re-election in 2012, backed the Senate health-care bill only after lengthy talks in which he won agreement that the federal government would permanently cover the full cost in Nebraska of expanding Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor." His vote was crucial in getting the controversial bill through the US Senate. Nelson's vote has drawn criticism from around the country and close to home. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a moderate Republican noted for his tolerance of liberal actions called Nelson's vote "sleazy." The Senator's own governor, Dave Heineman, has been critical of the circumstance behind the bill's passage, stating on Fox News that "The responsibility for this special deal lies solely on the shoulders of Senator Ben Nelson." He is now said to be considering running against Nelson in 2012.

The damage for the bill has been significant. In Nebraska, a Dec. 28 Rasmussen poll showed Heineman, who opposes the bill, soundly beating Mr. Nelson in a theoretical 2012 match-up, 61% to 30%. This is devastating to Nelson, who is 68 years old and was last re-elected in 2006 with 64% of the vote.

The Democrats are in trouble when it comes to the health care bill in general and that legislation will likely serve as a referendum in the 2012 elections. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in December found that 44% to 41% of Americans prefer the health system as it is to the Democrats' health overhaul. The bill is so bad that they cannot even give it away for free in Nebraska.There will be much debate over the sudden decline in Nelson's popularity. It could be because the people of Nebraska are like the rest of the nation who are opposed to rationed or socialized care. Some of them may understand the Constitutional obligations of a US Senator and believe he violated his legal mandate by supporting this bill that is without legitimacy. I believe that Nelson should have learned a lesson from George McGovern, the candidate who lost the 1972 race for the Presidency by a landslide. In the early part of 1972 McGovern was doing very well in his race against Richard Nixon, until he placed on his platform the redistribution of $1,000 to individuals who made less than $5,000 a year. $5,000 does not seem like much now, but at the time it was a huge sum of money. In fact, that described a majority of Americans at the time. But the vast majority of them believed they would make more than that some day. Furthermore, in spite of the weak morals of our elected officials and deep seated cynicism in the way they judge their constituents, I believe most Americans are not mere free loaders eager to get on the welfare dole. The people of Nebraska are hard working and do not want to be seen as dependents on the rest of the country. Nelson's dim view of his voters will likely provide grim results for him in 2012.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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