Obamacare not to blame for close Va. race, a top Democratic official says

The Democrat in the Virginia governor's election won more narrowly than expected. But Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, doesn't attribute the tightness to voter unhappiness over Obamacare.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin speaks at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters on Thursday, November 7, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The rocky rollout of Obamacare and its unpopularity with voters did not cause the narrower-than-anticipated victory of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe in Tuesday’s Virginia gubernatorial election.

This is the argument that Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chair of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), made Thursday at a breakfast for reporters hosted by the Monitor. “I do not think Obamacare had an impact on the Virginia election,” he said. “Really what Virginia was about was not about Obamacare.”

In the Virginia governor’s race Tuesday, Mr. McAuliffe ended up with a 2.5-point, 55,000-vote edge over Ken Cuccinelli, a tea party supporter and the commonwealth’s current attorney general. Several public polls had McAuliffe up by double digits coming into the final days of the campaign. Governor Shumlin said the private data he saw predicted it would always be a close race.

“I believe that the voters of Virginia rejected the same radical social agenda that [Florida Republican Gov.] Rick Scott and [Wisconsin Republican Gov.] Scott Walker ... and others have been implementing in their states,” Shumlin said.

Exit polling showed voters’ unhappiness with Obamacare, although it didn't indicate whether the Affordable Care Act was decisive in the Virginia election’s outcome. Data collected by Edison Research found 53 percent of Virginia voters opposed the ACA, and among these opponents, 81 percent voted for Mr. Cuccinelli. Among independent voters, 61 percent in Virginia and 58 percent in New Jersey said they opposed the health-care law.

Politico’s widely read daily Playbook summed up the Virginia results as, “Obamacare almost killed McAuliffe.”

Shumlin has been a leader in pushing health-care reform, and in 2017, Vermont is slated to implement what the Associated Press describes as “the nation’s first universal health care system, a sort of modified Medicare-for-all that has long been a dream for many liberals.” 

At the breakfast, Shumlin argued that the implementation of health-care reform “is going to be a tough road." He continued, "There are going to be potholes that make mud season in Vermont look like a picnic.”

But, he contended, the kinks would be worked out “within the foreseeable few months,” after which “the websites will be working and I believe ... it is going to be extraordinarily popular.”

The DGA chair played down the implications of Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s landslide victory in New Jersey over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono. It is a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 700,000.

“I think the phenomenon of Chris Christie is this simple," Shumlin said. "The people of New Jersey focused on his oversized personality, and it was a referendum on his personality.”

Shumlin brushed off criticism from some Democrats for not investing more in the New Jersey race, in an effort to reduce the size of Governor Christie’s reelection margin – which he is expected to trumpet in a bid for the presidency. Former Obama campaign strategist Ben LaBolt told The Washington Post, “There was a bit of a missed opportunity during the campaign itself." He went on, "At the national level, Governor Christie really got a clean shot at introducing himself, which is unfortunate.”

“My job as chair of the DGA is not to invest money in bruising people,” Shumlin replied. “It is to win Democratic governor's mansions so that we can have governors who focus on jobs and opportunity instead of a right-wing social agenda. So anyone who thinks the DGA should be in the business of bruising people doesn’t understand my job.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.