4. Feeling Blue. “Blue Dog Democrat” is understandably becoming a term of derision, denoting a willingness to object only enough to be noticed before caving in to the Democratic leadership. Yet the Blue Dogs still have to be a worry for supporters of the bill. When Obamacare first passed the House, 28 Blue Dog Democrats, more than half of their 52-member coalition, were on board. This is a pool that surely includes some very nervous votes. As Michael Barone points out, nearly 70 percent of the Blue Dogs represent districts that voted for John McCain. A vote for this bill must look even more like a potentially career-ending decision now than it did the first time around.
Keep an eye especially on the Pennsylvanians. Rep. Patrick Murphy already has four GOP opponents in his suburban Philadelphia district. After supporting round one of Obamacare, the auto bailouts, TARP, and the stimulus, Murphy may be looking for a way back toward the center. Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Christopher Carney, both elected in the 2006 anti-Bush sweep, represent blue-collar districts in the Keystone State in which Obama failed to reach 50 percent last year. You can bet that trio is watching the polls. Other Blue Dogs are simply getting out. In the past month, Reps. Bart Gordon (D., Tenn.), Dennis Moore (D., Kan.), and John Tanner (D., Tenn.) have all announced their retirements.
Don’t count on the Blue Dogs, though, since most of them are experts at folding under pressure.
5. The Left. Progressives are pained, at what should be their very moment of triumph. The Senate dashed their dreams of the public option. Without it, many on the left are abandoning ship. “This is the real sticking point,” said Howard Dean last Sunday. “There hasn’t been much fight from the White House on that.” It was always unlikely, no matter how much Bernie Sanders grumbled, that left-wing senators would block the deal. It’s easier to imagine a firebrand or two in the House doing it. No fewer than 60 liberals in the House imprudently made a pledge to oppose a bill without a public option. Almost all of them can be expected to eat it. But what if one or two don’t? Public-option scold Rep. Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) is continuing to pressure Obama to move further left. “What we’re saying is now’s your moment, big guy, you’re the Mariano Rivera of this situation,” he said to MSNBC last week. “You’re going to come in at the end, and there’s still a chance to do it.” That’s not going to happen, but perhaps a few of Weiner’s colleagues are ideologically besotted enough to lash out at the president’s “betrayal” when he doesn’t “come in” the way they hope he will.
All of this means that Democrats shouldn’t be celebrating until they have the bill on Obama’s desk. But make no mistake: The momentum for the bill that Reid had to fake a week or so ago is now real, at least within Congress. Early next year, the question may shift from whether Democrats can pass the bill, to whether Republican can make the sort of gains in 2010 and 2012 necessary to repeal it.
– Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. Robert Costa is the William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.