The political repercussions for Congressional Democrats of not passing a health care bill could be severe. Our newest national survey finds that Democrats lead 46-38 on the generic Congressional ballot. But asked how they would vote if no health care bill is passed respondents split 40-40 between saying they would vote Democratic or Republican in next year's election.
In some sense the Democrats may be in a damned if you don't or damned if you do position on health care. Asked how they would vote for Congress next year if a health care bill with a public option is passed respondents said they would go Democratic by a 46-41 margin, still more narrow than before any hypotheticals about health care outcomes were introduced into the questions.
Here are a couple key takeaways:
-There is a price to pay with independents if a strong health care bill is passed. Democrats lead 37-30 with them in general on the generic ballot, but they say they'll vote 44-37 for the GOP if a bill with a public option makes it through. Clearly some independents are sitting on the fence waiting to see what happens with health care before they decide how to vote next year and Democrats could push them toward the Republican side by passing a bill without bipartisan support.
-That said, the price to pay with those independents is not nearly as bad as the damage Democrats would do with their base by not passing a health care bill. Democrats get 86% with their own party on the generic ballot if a bill with a public option passes. They get 84% before health care is even mentioned. They get just 75% without a health care bill. They have to get something done in order to keep the party's rank and file voters in line for next year.
What's the big take away?
The political damage for Democrats of passing a public option is not as bad as the damage from doing nothing. But they would still be better off passing something that's not perfect than passing nothing at all. Most voters aren't following this debate really closely and don't understand the nuances of it all. At the end of the day voters are likely to see this as either a bill was passed or it was not. In some sense that should get the Blanche Lincolns and Mary Landrieus of the world in line- they're probably going to face just as much trouble back home whether there's a public option in there or not. But failing that Democrats would still be better off, at least for next year's election, with a weaker bill than no bill at all.
Full results here