Health-Care Baird

For a lame-duck Democrat, there's no risk in voting for Obama's plan.

Does health-care reform rest largely on Brian Baird's shoulders? It's looking that way, according to analysts quoted in this past Sunday's The New York Times.As the president and congressional Democrats try to force through reform without support from Republicans, they need wayward Democrats who voted against the health-care bill in November to change their minds. The most likely suspects, the thinking goes, are representatives who are stepping down from Congress and thus can risk the backlash, in the age of Tea Party politics, that might come from supporting Obama's plan. Baird, representing the 3rd Congressional District in southwestern Washington, is one of only three such Democrats.But does this analysis make any sense? Baird undoubtedly already knew that he wasn't going to run again when he voted against the health-care bill in November. He announced that he was resigning from Congress the following month.Indeed, that may be why he felt free to vote as he did. In his district, which went for Obama in 2008, not supporting the president's plan may be the more politically risky move. Baird certainly sounded defensive as he issued a lengthy statement explaining his vote. (The bottom line: He was concerned about the cost and the chance that premiums for the already-insured would go up.)Recall as well that the last time Baird significantly veered away from Democratic orthodoxy—by supporting President Bush's 2007 "surge" in Iraq—he got thoroughly beaten up by liberal constituents.Even so, the 3rd is a swing district, trending more conservative as it extends south from Olympia. And whatever Republicans it contains are likely to show up for this November's election, says David Wasserman, an analyst for the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter in Washington, D.C., and a source for the Times story."Anger is a stronger motivation than love in politics," Wasserman says, noting the anti-Democratic fervor in some quarters, in part because of fears about health-care reform. Were he running again and inclined to support the reform effort, Wasserman continues, Baird would be "in as tough a position as anyone."

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