How Will Health Care Reform Impact November's Elections?

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With President Barack Obama signing the biggest overhaul to the U.S. health care system in decades on Tuesday, the rage of political conservatives continues to grow. Whether this rage will fade by November's elections is far from clear.

On the home page of its website, the Republican Party is urging backers to donate money to fire Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a message conveyed alongside a picture of the San Francisco politician before a dramatic backdrop of red flames. The GOP has launched similar efforts on YouTube and Facebook. And the home page of conservative activist Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform group features a image of Pelosi, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid frowning over a planet Earth graphic with the words "Armageddon -- The final battle on healthcare has arrived" in dramatic white lettering.

Republicans, though, better not start measuring the curtains for their new offices yet. As Democratic pollster Stanley R. Greenberg noted in The New York Times, recent surveys show that support for health care reform is growing even as Obama's popularity falls. And the effects of Sunday's vote on the midterm elections may be easily overshadowed by the economy, particularly if unemployment remains at near 10% or improves greatly before November, experts say.

"A lot of people ask that question," says Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, says in an interview. "It could go either way."

Will There Be a "Tidal Wave of Unemployed Congressmen"?


For now, many Americans are less than enthused about the bill. A recent Gallup poll found that most Americans believe that health care reform will make things worse for both the country and themselves personally. About 11 Republican state officials are considering filing a legal challenge. Many of the challengers are also running for higher office

"Trust in government is near historic lows, and many Americans who desperately want health care reform doubt that capacity of our public institutions to deliver it," writes William A. Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a blog post,

The divide between supporters and opponents of the legislation is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

In a statement, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich described health care reform as a "monstrosity" and called the Democrats' tactics in pushing the bill through Congress reprehensible. "Sunday was a pressured, bought, intimidated vote worthy of Hugo Chavez but unworthy of the United States of America," he says. A spokesperson for the Tea Party Express, one of the largest Tea Party groups, was even blunter, saying in an unsigned email to DailyFinance: "This wasn't a loss for just the Tea Party, this was a loss for the American people. Don't believe me? Watch the tidal wave of unemployed congressmen heading home in November."

Ryan Ellis, director of tax policy for Americans for Tax Reform, says his organization is planning a public relations campaign targeting 15 to 20 "very vulnerable" Democrats who backed health care reform by arguing it contains six tax increases. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) told MSNBC that the bill was a "disaster" and that the GOP wanted to "repeal and replace" the bill, though there is little chance that strategy will work.

The GOP is taking a risk.

"They've bet their whole party against it," writes William Saletan in Slate. "If the public hates the program, they'll be rewarded at the polls. But if the public likes it, they're in trouble."
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