Forecaster sees improved Democratic chances in 20 House races after health-care bill passes

Meh. Dave Wasserman and the Cook Political Report are respected forecasters, but only three of the 20 seats have moved from “lean Republican” to “toss up.” And Wasserman’s analysis is loaded with caveats, understandably:

Of the 23 Republicans sitting in districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, 14 voted for the repeal and replace measure. For these Republicans, time is still on their side and healthcare reform can’t be disposed of soon enough. There are still 18 months before the 2018 election, whereas House Democrats eked out final passage of the ACA less than eight months before the 2010 midterms. These Republicans can’t afford a year-long Senate slog.

Besides the election calendar, another comfort to these Republicans has been their over-performance in the most recent election…

The irony is that Democrats’ temptation to refer to the GOP’s bill “Trumpcare” may actually raise the popularity of the legislation. Trump’s job approval, though low, is still almost double the public support for repealing and replacing some of the ACA’s most popular provisions. And Democrats will need to go beyond lecturing voters about the bill’s “morally bankruptcy” – their candidates will need to convince independent voters how hard the bill could hit their pocketbooks.

The Quinnipiac poll in March that put the AHCA at a radioactive 17 percent favorability got data nerds excited about trying to gauge the size of the blue wave that might be on the way in 2018. The basic problem: The best yardstick with which to measure is the backlash to ObamaCare in 2010, but comparing the AHCA to ObamaCare is a fool’s errand. One became law; the other has no hope of becoming law. We don’t even have a recent poll testing public reaction to the new and “improved” AHCA. That toxic 17 percent rating last month was surely partly driven by Republican frustration that the party couldn’t make a deal on replacing ObamaCare after seven years of hype. Now that they’ve made a deal, the Republican numbers should climb, pushing overall approval up. And that’ll be interesting for awhile, until the Senate tosses the AHCA in the trash and cranks out a bill of its own that changes the terms of the health-care debate once again, rendering polling on the current House bill moot.

In the meantime, Nate Silver is stuck spitballing how many seats Republicans would lose if the AHCA damaged House GOPers to the same extent that ObamaCare damaged Democrats. Answer: A lot. Those House Republicans on Earth 2, where the bill has a chance of passing the Senate, had better look out.

If Republican members should suffer a similar penalty for voting for the AHCA — somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 points — it could put dozens of GOP-held seats in play. Some 33 Republicans won their seats by 14 percentage points or less in 20161; of those, 27 voted for the AHCA.

Republicans in the next tier or two down could also be vulnerable, however, because the overall political climate is likely to be a lot worse for Republicans than it was in 2016. In 2016, Republicans won the aggregate popular vote for the U.S. House by about 1 percentage point. Democrats currently have a 5- to 6-point lead in polls of the 2018 House vote, however. Moreover, the numbers for the president’s party usually get worse over the course of the midterm cycle as more voters tune into the political process. There could easily be an overall partisan swing of 5 to 10 percentage points against Republicans, therefore. It’s not quite clear how this partisan swing would interact with the AHCA penalty — whether you’d add them together or whether that’s double-counting — but it should be enough to make a lot of Republican incumbents nervous. There are 58 Republicans who won by less than 20 points in 20162 and who voted for the AHCA.

If everything else goes badly for the GOP and if voters end up caring about a long since discarded health-care bill next November, it’s potentially a wipeout. (Forty-six Republicans who voted for the bill yesterday come from districts that went for either Clinton or Obama in 2008, 2012, and 2016.) But Silver also notes key differences between ObamaCare and the AHCA. Not only did one become law while the other hasn’t (and won’t), the negotiation process for ObamaCare lasted much, much longer than the AHCA process has lasted — so far — leaving more time for public anger to build. Trump himself is a perpetual distraction too, of course. Lord only knows what he’ll be tweeting about in the fall of 2018 that yanks people’s minds off of health care and onto something else. And don’t forget the structural advantage that House Republicans will have in 2018 that Democrats didn’t in 2010:

The threat to the GOP from the health-care process, I think, has less to do with the particularities of a go-nowhere bill and more to do with the overall sense that the party isn’t producing good legislation, isn’t prepared to govern, isn’t looking out for the average American like Trump promised, and so forth. “In a tough national environment in 2010,” writes Nate Cohn of anti-ObamaCare Dems, “Democrats who voted against the A.C.A. found it easier to distinguish themselves from the national party.” Republicans who voted against the AHCA yesterday may find that vote useful down the road not because the public will care much about the AHCA per se next fall but because they’ll be hostile to Trump and the Republican Party generally. Defying Trump on his big health-care vote will be touted as evidence that you’re not one of “them.” Voting for it will be noted, potentially, as evidence that you are.

Here’s Paul Ryan yesterday, possibly contemplating the electoral fallout.