Why Are North Dakota Republicans Trying To Help Heidi Heitkamp Win In 2012?
Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp will inevitably get into North Dakota’s Senate race. I called it a while ago, and now the media is greeting the news with thinly-veiled hosannas. I don’t think Heitkamp is nearly as strong a candidate as some would like to believe, but she won’t be a push-over either. It’s Berg’s race to lose, but he can lose it.
“The influence of Sen. Kent Conrad, who is vacating the seat after four terms, weighed heavily on Heitkamp, according to sources,” reports Dave Catanese at Politico. “Conrad privately made the case to Heitkamp that GOP Rep. Rick Berg is more vulnerable to defeat than Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who assumed office in 2010 after then-Gov. John Hoeven ascended to the Senate.”
I think there’s some truth to the idea that support for Berg is luke-warm in this red state. But I think a lot of that has to do with Berg not being conservative enough on fiscal issues, which would hardly translate into support for Heitkamp. Even so, Berg needs issues to campaign on, and Republicans in the state legislature are trying to take a big one away from him.
A friend of mine in Washington DC says Obamacare is still polling in North Dakota as a top three issue, and citizens of the state are even more opposed to the law than they were in the 2010 election cycle. Put another way, Obamacare is getting less popular in North Dakota as time goes on.
Yet, even as the law gets less popular and even as the state participates in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the law, some Republicans are pushing to pass legislation to implement the state health care exchanges Obamacare mandates. According to House Majority Leader Al Carlson, if that legislation is passed in the upcoming special session North Dakota will be the first state in the nation to implement the exchanges.
What’s the rush?
Rep. George Keiser, the chairman of the Industry, Business and Labor committee where the legislation will originate, argues that North Dakota should pass these health care exchanges now so that the federal government doesn’t pass them for us later. That federalist-sounding argument can be convincing until you consider that state control over these exchanges is an illusion to begin with. The federal government must approve the state-designed exchanges anyway, so ultimately control over that policy is up to the feds anyway.
So why rush into the exchanges when a) the state is challenging the legality of the law mandating the exchanges in court and b) there’s no real benefit to implementing the law anyway?
And politically, there’s a real down side to passing these exchanges. The biggest issue Democrat candidates in North Dakota are going to be vulnerable on this election cycle is Obamacare. Heitkamp, especially, will be vulnerable on the issue given out outspoken activism in favor of the health care law up to and including leading union-sponsored rallies in favor of the law.
But how can Republicans in the state, up to and including Berg, have credibility in their criticism of Heitkamp over Obamacare when they’re simultaneously pushing to be ahead of the curve in implementing the law?
The health care exchange legislation needs to be killed in the special session. It’s bad for the state in terms of policy, and it’s bad for Republicans politically.Tags: election 2012, Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota News, obamacare, Rick Berg