It seems that not every pork-barrel deal buys home-state love for Capitol Hill denizens. Despite wangling a perpetual federal subsidy for Nebraska’s Medicaid program — and then denying he asked for it — Ben Nelson can’t eat a pizza anywhere in his state these days. The Omaha World-Herald poll finds that Nelson has now gone underwater on job approval, falling to 42% two years away from his re-election bid:
Nelson, who once enjoyed some of the highest job performance marks in the U.S. Senate, has now seen his approval rating dip below 50 percent in Nebraska, according to The World-Herald Poll. …
In the survey, Nelson’s job approval rating was 42 percent and his disapproval rating was 48 percent. By comparison, Republican Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, who voted against the bill, had a 63 percent job-approval rating. …
It’s clear the bulk of Nebraskans’ dissatisfaction with Nelson rests with his health care vote.
More than 60 percent of those surveyed said they opposed the Senate health care bill. A majority said they opposed Nelson’s vote for the bill. About one-third favored his vote.
Nelson has enjoyed broad popularity in red-state Nebraska. Just four years ago, his approval rating was 73%, and ten years ago it was over 80%. Now half of the Republicans in the poll who voted for Nelson in the past say they won’t vote for him again after his deal to pass ObamaCare.
Nelson says that most Nebraskans to whom he speaks support his vote on the bill, but to Nebraskans, that makes it sound as though Nelson has stopped listening — at least to them.
Will this continue to be a problem into 2012, when Nelson comes up for re-election? Any time an incumbent drops below 50% approval, it signals weakness. Furthermore, Nebraska is mainly a Republican state, which was content to send Nelson to Washington as long as he represented their conservative-populist politics. A sell-out to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama is not what they had in mind, and Obama at least will still be in office when Nelson has to run again for his seat.
The best thing Nelson can do is to stop ObamaCare — assuming he has the chance to do so. That may mollify Nebraskans who want him out of Washington now, but they’ll never look at Nelson the same way again after his surrender to Reid, and Reid’s payoff to get them to ignore it.