S-CHIP as a campaign issue

This has to be a gift for the Democrats, because the Republican Presidential candidates are forced to side with the President against a highly popular program that fits easily into a 10-second spot.

There’s been some fussing in Blue Blogistan and in the MSM that the S-CHIP issue might boomerang. If the veto is sustained, the reasoning goes, Congressional Democrats get another black eye, while a bunch of Republicans from purple districts get to cast a free vote against Bush.

I don’t see it working that way, even if Pelosi and Reid don’t figure out a way to tack the bill on to some piece of “must-pass” legislation. Last time I checked, 2008 was predicted to be a Leap Year, which means there’s a Presidential election. And in order to curry favor with the Republican primary electorate, which seems mostly reside somewhere between Wingnuttia and Dementia, the Republican Presidential contenders are going to have to line up to drink the Kool-Aid. I haven’t taken a census yet, but it’s good to know that Fred Thompson, mumbling his way through Iowa, has now come down firmly in favor of allowing children to go without health care if their parents are middle-class but can’t afford private health insurance. Giuliani was already there; I’m sure that in his heart he’d rather torture puppies than deprive children of health care, but he’s a pragmatic sorta guy who knows how to make do. Romney, of course, is trying desperately to make the GOP base forget he was a non-wingnut governor of Massachusetts, though on this issue he seems rather laconic

The Democratic nominee should be able to wrap that around the neck of whoever gets the Republican booby prize, which isn’t going to help Republican turnout in swing districts.

If you doubt that the President’s position is political poison for his supporters, consider that Bobby Jindal, having missed the original vote, now plans to vote to override the veto. Jindal, usually a loyal Bushoid, has what seems to be a huge lead in the Louisiana Governor’s race (of course it helps if a bunch of opposition voters are still out-of-state as refugees from Katrina) but apparently he’s decided that he can’t afford to stand by his man on this one. The House Democratic leadership, by putting off the veto override vote for two weeks, has not only improved the chances of passage, they’ve increased the political cost of doing the wrong thing. Even GWB isn’t entirely tone-deaf; he seems somewhat apologetic about the veto, which he issued privately rather than with the fanfare that surrounded the stem-cell veto. I suppose stealth is the tribute vice pays to political calculation.

Query Has Mike Huckabee taken a stand? He’s proud of more or less inventing S-CHIP in Arkansas; I wonder if he feels strongly enough to buck the machine. It wouldn’t entirely surprise me; Huckabee (when he’s not turning loose rapists on the orders of the Clinton-bashers and then lying about it) seems to be the class of a pretty sorry field.

Update No such luck. Seth Michaels of the AFL-CIO weblog reports that all of the Republican candidates came out against the Senate bill in the August 5 Iowa debate. Huckabee waffles a lot, but about 40% of the way into the transcript Stephanopoulous finally nails him down: he’s agin it. I still think he’s the class of the field, but he’s pretty low-rent just the same.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com