The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare puts a number of Senate Democrats who voted for the healthcare overhaul and are seeking re-election in the crosshairs of the GOP.
Of the 60 Democrats and independents that voted to approve President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, 15 are up for re-election this year. The GOP needs to pick up four seats to take control of the Senate should Obama win re-election; three should Mitt Romney win, as his GOP vice president would break the tie.
Of those seeking re-election, the GOP’s best chance for pickups are most likely in Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Michigan.
Republican candidates were leading in two of those five states —Missouri and Montana — based on the latest TPM Poll Averages as of Thursday — while the Republican challenger was nipping at the heels of the Democrat incumbent in Florida.
Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Newsmax that Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling put the healthcare law back into play.
“As for the effect of the ruling, I don’t think it changes anything,” Kondik said. “In races where it was already important, it will remain important, and in races where it wasn’t important, it won’t suddenly become important.
“In essence, by upholding the law, the Supreme Court put the Affordable Care Act back into the political arena, and the differences between the two parties are obvious — Democrats largely want to uphold it, and Republicans largely want to dump it. Those arguments haven’t changed as a result of the ruling.”
University of Virginia’s Center for Politics Larry Sabato’s Chrystal Ball website rates the re-election chances of Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., as “toss-ups.”
The Cook Political Report concurred on McCaskill and Tester but rates Nelson’s re-election changes as “leans” Democratic.
Cook and Sabato have Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in the leans Democratic category and Cook includes Rep. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also in the leans category while Sabato has her in the likely Democratic category.
Of the other senators facing re-election who voted for Obamacare, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., are viewed as “likely” winners.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tom Carper, D-Del., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, are in races considered by political handicappers as safe or solid.
“Republicans will use ‘yes’ votes on the Affordable Care Act to attack Senate candidates running in red states,” Kondik said. “These include Claire McCaskill (and) Jon Tester . . . While it will be used in other places — Josh Mandel in Ohio, for instance, has claimed that Sherrod Brown was the deciding vote on the Affordable Care Act — it would seem most effective in states that are most likely to go for Mitt Romney.
“In the long run, I think this election – most clearly at the presidential level – is going to be about the economy. We’ve got a long way to go until November, and healthcare is probably going to be a secondary issue.”
Here is a look at the key five contests based on the latest TMP Poll Averages:
Missouri: Incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill trails Republican Sarah Steelman by an 8-point margin — 48.7 to 40.7 percent. McCaskill is a big target for the GOP with many experts predicting that Republicans will not pick up the seats it needs to take the Senate unless they can win here.
Montana: Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg is holding onto a narrow 2-point lead over Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, 49 to 47 percent.
Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., enjoys a slight 2.1-point lead over Republican challenger Connie Mack — 41.6 to 39.5 percent.
Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is leading by 11.4 points over Republican challenger Josh Mandel — 48 to 36.6 percent.
Michigan: Democrat Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has an 11-point lead over Republican Pete Hoekstra — 48.7 to 37.7 percent.
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