This may work. Who knows? But it bugs me that, as usual, the Dems just throw up their hands when it comes to educating the public. Again and again, we see that voters like Obamacare -- once they understand it. But instead of pushing the growing popularity of the benefits, they will construct elaborate runarounds like this. Not to mention, why not an all-out push to explain to Dems how important it is to turn out for the mid-terms? Hell, the commercials write themselves!
The 2014 handicapping is underway, and the consensus is clear: Democrats face a tough battle to maintain control of the Senate. They're defending too many seats in red states where President Obama and his signature health care reform law are unpopular.
They're also at a structural disadvantage. Turning out the base, conventional wisdom and historical precedents say, is the key element for midterm elections, and Republicans have done it better.
But Democrats might have a secret weapon in a couple of those key Senate races. Activist groups and state lawmakers are working to get Obamacare's Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Louisiana and Montana, where they have vulnerable candidates and GOP officials have refused to adopt the provision.
"Turnout is the biggest challenge that Democrats face," one Democratic operative told TPM. "There are a variety of ways that you can meet your turnout goals, and one of them is certainly ballot initiatives. Medicaid expansion really could be a powerful tool to turn voters out."
The first trick is getting the question on the ballot. In Montana, activists are required to gather a little more than 24,000 signatures by June 20. The order is taller in Louisiana: getting the GOP-controlled legislature to approve it. Its odds probably aren't great, local reporters say, but a few GOP lawmakers did express an openness to the expansion last year. The bill has already been introduced in the state Senate by a Democrat.
South Dakota serves as a cautionary tale for the success of this gambit. Democrats there, where the party is trying to hold onto the seat of the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, had attempted to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot, but it was defeated by Republicans in the state legislature.↓ Story continues below ↓
It's not likely to be a silver bullet for saving the Senate, but it could make a difference in what are expected to be tight races. If voters who ordinarily would skip the midterms instead come out because they want to advance Obama's most important domestic achievement, that can only benefit Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA) and John Walsh (MT).
The Democratic operative noted that Landrieu and Walsh's opponents -- U.S. Reps. Bill Cassidy and Steve Daines, respectively -- have enthusiastically pressed for repealing Obamacare, which is a contrast that Democrats plan to draw throughout the 2014 cycle.