Why Did Five Democrats Vote to Repeal Obamacare?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 11 2012 4:25 PM

Why Did Five Democrats Vote to Repeal Obamacare?

The latest version of the Obamacare "repeal vote" -- which will not actually repeal Obamacare -- brought along five Democratic votes. Who were they? Well, they fit into two camps.

Dan Boren (Okla.), Mike Ross (Ark.) -- Both of them represent Yellow Dog Democratic seats, full of registered Ds who vote Republican for president. Both are retiring this year, and keeping their options open for future runs in states that do not elect liberal Democrats.

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Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Jim Matheson (Utah) -- They're all running for re-election, but this needs some explaining. Before the 2010 elections, which they survived, they all represented marginally Republican seats. The Cook Political Report, which assigns numbers based on how more Republican or Democratic-leaning a district is compared to the rest of country, gave McIntyre's district an R+5, Kissell's an R+2, and Matheson's an R+15.

But after 2010, Republicans controlled redistricting in each of those states. In North Carolina, they drew the map to protect new Republican incumbents and made it incredibly tough for white Democrats to win again -- most black Democrats were packed into three districts, cross-cutting the state. McIntyre and Kissell now represent districts that would easily go to Republicans if they were open. In Utah, Republicans carved up Matheson's district, so he decided to run in the one that includes most of Salt Lake City but only a third of his old turf.

And so, as pointless as it all was, the House Republicans' latest tantrum gave Kissell and Matheson to chance to decry their prior votes -- both were "nays" on health care, but "nays" on other repeal bills -- and kowtow to their new voters.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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