Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tester-Rehberg a Dead Heat: A follow-up

Politico has a story this morning about Senator Tester's vote on healthcare reform. The NRSC has put out a press release to "remind" Montanans that Tester was the "60th vote" and "deciding vote". You can read Politico's story here and the NRSC press release here.

According to Politico, Tester's staff responded with video showing that Tester was the 52nd--not the 60th--vote for the healthcare plan. The NRSC responds that with 60 votes needed for passage, every vote was critical.

This, of course, relates back to what I had posted earlier in the week. Note that the NRSC story calls the healthcare plan the "Obama-Tester" Overhaul. Obama is unpopular in Montana, and so is (depending on how you spin it) his healthcare plan. You'll see Tester constantly tagged to Obama by the Republican Party because the Obama brand isn't so hot at the moment. Senator Tester, meantime, needs to decide if he should pivot away from the healthcare reform or educate Montanans as to why his vote was necessary and good from the state. It would seem that Tester has decided to defend his vote and point out all the benefits the plan brings to the state.

Is this a good strategy? Again, it depends upon which framing of the issue sells among voters. Tester blasts Congressman Rehberg for defunding healthcare reform when he has a nice healthcare plan provided by government. This populist story line has the potential to work: it makes Congressman Rehberg look heartless. Rehberg, of course, will focus on the negatives of the plan: it costs too much, takes away too much control from patients/doctors, and places an undue burden on small businesses. This also can work. The key, I think, is which story will work with independent voters.

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