New Orleans The headlines in all of the papers, local and national, are filled with handwringing about the worries of Democratic politicians and office holders in the wake of the difficult rollout of the Affordable Care Act to date. Before too many of these politicians throw Obamacare under the bus or jump over the cliff themselves, they need to look carefully at what the voters had to say in a bellwether race in the very conservative, north Louisiana 5th District Congressional runoff and the results of that special election. Not only was the race between two Republicans a deep slapdown of Republican opposition to Obamacare, especially Medicaid expansion, but it was also the likely death knell, if another was needed, to any last vestiges of hope that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal might have had in running for President.
First there was a bit of dipsy-do orchestrated hamfistedly by Governor Jindal as he tried to install a legislative favorite in the Congressional seat. Rodney Alexander, the former Democratic, then Republican Congressman from the district had suddenly resigned in recent months only within weeks to be appointed to the Jindal Administration in a sinecure dealing with Veterans. Jindal fast tracked the special election and immediately his ally, state Senator Neil Riser, filed with a flush bank account of freshly minted campaign contributions as the Governor tried to intimidate Republican opposition and slam dunk the contest. Out of nowhere a Monroe businessman and political neophyte, Vance McAllister, filed and shockingly managed to get Riser in an all-Republican runoff thanks to his own money and support most notably from Duck Dynasty stars Phil and Willie Robertson.
Rather than fight for the far right, McAllister, the newbie, in a debate between the candidates in the last week of the campaign came out foursquare in favor of the optional expansion of Medicaid to help his districts lower waged workers up to 138% of poverty to be covered. Governor Jindal has made blocking the expansion and his opposition to Obamacare his signature effort in Louisiana despite the fact that it would be huge relief to 400,000 Louisianans. Riser, following current party dogma and the campaign playbook, blasted McAllister with ads saying “a vote for Vance McAllister is a vote for Obamacare. That being the case, the votes for Obamacare were 59% to 41% in a total butt-kicking by the rookie over the veteran pol, Riser, and his sponsor, Governor Jindal.
Trust me on this. No matter what the headlines and the prevailing babble from the pundits, we have seen huge support in this area for the Affordable Care Act, warts and all, and politicians, especially Republicans are going to studying the McAllister victory embrace of Obamacare very closely, and it could either be a game changer for them or their own death knell, if they misread what the tea leaves are really saying.