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Fifty States of Obamacare Confusion, Stress, and Aggravation



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Fifty States of Obamacare Confusion, Stress, and Aggravation

No matter where you live in the United States, Obamacare is causing headaches, stress, and aggravation for someone near you.

In New Hampshire, vending-machine manufacturers are gasping at the new law’s requirements that calorie information be displayed on roughly 5 million vending machines – not just on the packaging of the food inside, but on the vending machine itself:

Carol Brennan, who owns Brennan Food Vending Services in Londonderry, said she doesn’t yet know how she will handle the regulations, but she doesn’t like them. She has five employees servicing hundreds of machines and says she’ll be forced to limit the items offered so her employees don’t spend too much time updating the calorie counts.

“It is outrageous for us to have to do this on all our equipment,” she said.

Brennan also doubts that consumers will benefit from the calorie information.

“How many people have not read a label on a candy bar?” she said. “If you’re concerned about it, you’ve already read it for years.”

To the Obama administration and their fans, America’s businesses are giant, bottomless barrels of money, time, and energy whose purpose in life is to be directed and redirected at the whims of those wise folks in Washington, in order to achieve the visionary “social justice” goal of telling people that, say, a candy bar isn’t nutritious or healthy for them.

In most states, the current worst stress and headache stems from people who think they’ve signed up for insurance through the state or federal exchanges but who haven’t yet gotten their confirmation or insurance cards from the insurance companies.

In Connecticut:

More than 34,000 state residents were slated to begin new private insurance plans Wednesday as part of the federal health law. But as the new year began, many people who bought policies through the state’s health insurance exchange still hadn’t received their first premium bills, which must be paid by Jan. 10 to get coverage this month.

In Vermont:

The state’s largest hospital had almost two dozen patients seek treatment with health insurance policies provided through Vermont’s health overhaul system since the start of the year, yet more than half of those did not have insurance cards, an official at Burlington’s Fletcher Allen Health Care said Thursday.

In Massachusetts:

Jessica Stanford of Sharon, Mass., is 40 and newly pregnant. She’d really like to see a doctor soon because she’s had several miscarriages and developed gestational diabetes during her last pregnancy. But she doesn’t have health insurance and is worried about racking up medical bills.

Stanford applied for subsidized coverage in early December. She keeps calling the Connector to find out about her enrollment status. One customer rep told Stanford she could take her application number to a doctor’s office for proof that the state will cover her, at least temporarily, but Stanford wants something more certain.

The Connector says it has extended coverage, through March, to 254,000 residents who applied for free or subsidized insurance and all residents who have had government backed coverage.

The agency is sending out letters explaining a temporary coverage plan that begins today (Jan. 1) for 22,371 residents who, like Stanford, are applying for the first time.

But Stanford doesn’t have her letter. The Connector is trying to expedite Stanford’s case…

But it’s pretty obvious the application process is still a mess. Only 497 of the almost 50,000 applicants who filed online have a new ConnectorCare plan. The agency can’t say how long it will take to finish processing the other 45,000 applications or bring 89,000 residents who have subsidized coverage, but haven’t even started to re-enroll, into the new, post Obamacare plans.

I can hear you now – well, those are all New England states. The only guy who knows how to run anything up there is Bill Belichick.

But it’s not much better in the upper Midwest.

In Wisconsin, a new survey of employers by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce finds that “54 percent say that ACA has had a negative impact on their employees and 30 percent say it is too early to tell. Just 1 percent said the impact has been positive.”’

In Minnesota:

It’s a new year, but MNsure continues to wrestle with old problems involving its website and call center.

The application and account services portion of the state health exchange website was down Thursday afternoon for technical reasons.

“We are actively working on a resolution and ask that you visit us at a later time,” says a notice on the MNsure website. “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Meanwhile, the average wait time for people calling MNsure for help on Thursday was 76 minutes. More than 2,200 calls had been received by MNsure as of 2 p.m.

For weeks, consumers have been frustrated by the combination of website glitches and lengthy waits at the MNsure call center.

Same bureaucratic nightmare in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Shannon Wendt was no fan of the Affordable Care Act, but when she found out her family’s high-deductible health insurance plan would be canceled, she tried to enroll in a new plan through the federal marketplace.

 And then she hit glitches – and not just the usual problems with a stalled website.

Despite roughly 25 hours on the phone with dozens of health insurance navigators and supervisors, she still has been unable to sign up for insurance. The reason: her five children are deemed ineligible.

. . . Working with navigators by phone, she filed and deleted an application 12 times. She had her husband set up a separate application, but that ran into problems.

At one point, a navigator said she may have to submit proof of citizenship for the children. All five children were born in the U.S., and all have social security numbers, she said.

“Nobody’s said anything about it since then,” she said. “That’s kind of my working assumption – that somehow our kids are not considered citizens and that’s why they were rejected.”

Chicago, Illinois:

Dr. John Venetos, a Chicago gastroenterologist, said there is “tremendous uncertainty and anxiety” among patients who have been calling his office, some of whom believe they have signed up for coverage but have not yet received insurance cards.

“They’re not sure if they have coverage. It puts the heavy work on the physician,” Venetos said. “At some point, every practice is going to make a decision about how long can they continue to see these patients for free if they are not getting paid.”

And no, it’s not much better in the mid-Atlantic, either.

Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvanians who applied for health insurance through the federally run website Healthcare.gov and were found to be eligible or potentially eligible for Medicaid were cautioned Thursday by Gov. Tom Corbett’s office that they may not have coverage yet.

An administration spokesman said the federal government continues to have trouble transferring the electronic files of more than 25,000 applications to the state’s Department of Public Welfare.

Keep this in mind as Obamacare fans keep telling you that the website is fixed.

A similar story in Montgomery County, Maryland:

“Somebody just got hit by a car today, who’s on the way to the hospital right now, who thinks they have coverage,” says veteran Montgomery County insurance broker Jack Cohen.

That person might be mistaken if they think they are covered.

“If you say, ‘I’m covered, I signed up for coverage Jan. 1, I just don’t have the card yet,’ the doctor is going to see you, but they’re going to make you pay out of pocket,” said Cohen, who’s heard from irate customers who are worried their payments haven’t been processed.

In West Virginia:

A glitch on the federal health insurance marketplace has caused problems for about 18,000 West Virginians attempting to sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act…

The federal website would have transferred accounts of those people on to the state, [Jeremiah Samples, assistant secretary for the state Department of Health and Human Resources] said. Instead, the federal website is sending only “flat files,” which have basic information about the person but not enough to sign them up for Medicaid, he said.

The DHHR is sending letters to those 10,000 people informing them they will need to sign up again via the state’s Medicaid website.

In Virginia, the mandate’s in effect . . . but the uninsured are telling the doctors the problem is the same as it was before: They just can’t afford it.

Even with the Affordable Care Act and possible Medicaid expansion in Virginia, the Free Clinic of Danville says they’ll still have constant traffic.

Staff members say they’ve had numerous patients inform them that even with subsidies, they’re still unable to afford health insurance premiums.

Turning South, in Texas the description is “a sort of chaos,” which is probably not that much better than just plain chaos:

The entire tracking system was “in a sort of chaos” Thursday as consumers tried to use or confirm their new insurance, said Kelly Fristoe, an insurance agent in Wichita Falls, Texas.

“I’ve got pharmacies that are calling in to verify benefits on these new plans that are getting incorrect information,” he said. “I have people that are calling to make their initial premium payment, and they’ve been on hold for maybe three or four hours at a time and then they get hung up on.”

North Carolina:

Months after problems plagued enrollment in the State Health plan, thousands of current and retired state workers continue to face obstacles.

The new coverage year began Jan. 1 but state officials acknowledged Thursday that 105,000 state employees, mostly those who work at government agencies, do not have insurance cards used to obtain medical care.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office, which oversees the insurance plan that covers 660,000 state workers and retirees, says the cards are being processed and will be mailed soon.

Florida:

The kind of quiet relief is what a Santa Rosa Beach couple, artist David Hart and his wife Karen, a marketing consultant, are yearning for. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday, the Harts signed up for a plan through the federal Marketplace and paid by phone on Dec. 19. But they got worried when the check to Florida Blue hadn’t been cashed by Dec. 27, and began making calls.

On Wednesday, Karen Hart told Health News Florida that their problem has not yet been resolved. Their application shows up as complete and paid on Healthcare.gov, she said, and they even have a payment confirmation number, but they haven’t been able to get Florida Blue to fix the problem.

“We’re now stuck in the middle,” Karen Hart says. “It’s been an absolute nightmare.”

In Tennessee, one of their senators is underlining the economic impact of the new law:

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, a former U.S. Secretary of Education, Thursday said that as school starts back up in 2014, Obamacare is forcing cuts in hours for employees, such as substitute teachers, in at least 11 Tennessee school districts ‘and likely many more,’ harming students’ education in the process

School districts reporting fiscal challenges because of Obamacare include: Carter County, Clarksville, Franklin Special School District, Johnson City, Maury County, Oneida Special School District, Rutherford County, Scott County, Stewart County, Washington County and Wilson County.

Nor are things much better out West. California’s just now realizing that the exchange isn’t sustainable, at least not the way it currently operates:

Covered California projects it will lose $78 million in the 2015-16 budget, and it is not clear how the health exchange plans to close that gap and become financially self-sustaining once federal grants run dry.

While the exchange says that it will increase revenue and trim expenses to bring its operating budget into balance, its budget documents make no definitive statements about how, exactly, it will reach financial equilibrium . . . 

Since its creation in 2010, the exchange has paid its bills with nearly $1 billion in federal grants. But, starting on Jan. 1, 2015, the Affordable Care Act forbids federal grants for health exchange operations. And state law prohibits dipping into California’s general fund to pay for exchange operations.

How long until we see state governors pushing to delay the deadline for financial sustainability? Federal bailouts forever! Elsewhere in the state:

In California, employees of the state health exchange were still going through some 19,000 paper applications sent in the early days after Covered California launched on Oct. 1, spokesman Dana Howard said. He could not say how many were outstanding.

Oregon:

A major health care overhaul begins on Jan. 1, but it’s proven to be a big pain for many Oregonians.

Some people say they won’t have insurance in the New Year, despite their attempts to enroll in Cover Oregon.

 “I have spent a total of four hours on hold to no avail. I had a contracted insurance broker submit the application for me on December 4th but have never received a packet,” one viewer wrote to KATU in an email. “So frustrating as I really need coverage ASAP.” 

“I was in their system on every other call today. Now I am not,” another man wrote in an email to KATU. “I am disabled and need my insurance!”

In Washington, the good news is that the state can only take money from your heirs after you die to recover long-term care costs, not routine costs. Now you can rest in peace!

Washington’s Health Care Authority, as promised, has filed an emergency rule to amend Medicaid’s estate recovery policy.

Current policy allows Medicaid to recover all medical costs from a client’s estate after death, which caused some consternation among those signing up for health insurance through the state’s expanded Medicaid program. The change means that Medicaid can only recover costs related to long-term care services.

The emergency rule-making order, which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2014, said the change was made to “eliminate a barrier to applying for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.”

Hope you like paying higher premiums, Hawaii:

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday the state Insurance Division approved increases of 9.2 percent for 11,000 individual plans and 5 percent for 26,300 small business plans administered by Kaiser. HMSA will be allowed to increase rates on 14,300 individual plans by 7.5 percent. HMSA increased small business rates by 6.8 percent for 118,000 members earlier this year.

Insurers say the increases are necessary to cover higher medical expenses, taxes and fees anticipated under the Affordable Care Act.

Tags: Obamacare , New Hampshire , Vermont , Massachusetts , Pennsylvania , West Virginia , Iowa

The Democrats’ Coming Civil War Over Fracking



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From the puppy-heavy Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Democrats’ Coming Civil War Over Fracking

You knew that at some point, the Democrats with constituents who would benefit from the jobs that can be created through fracking — i.e., blue-collar voters and their representatives — and the Democrats who see fracking as a chainsaw massacre of Gaia’s baby seals would conflict. Democrats have largely papered over these differences, but you can only kick the can down the road so many times.

Now that simmering dispute is boiling over . . . in Pennsylvania.

Battle lines were drawn in June when the state committee passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on fracking until health and environmental concerns in the state are more clearly addressed. Though the resolution was little more than a position statement, debate over it was intense and emotional.

But the 115-81 vote didn’t put an end to the debate, and emotions continued to run high among commonwealth Democrats.

Two of the seven declared Democratic gubernatorial candidates — U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and former Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty -– criticized the moratorium.

Even former Gov. Ed Rendell, one of the nation’s preeminent Democrats, condemned the resolution as “very ill-advised.”

[Intra]-party dissension over the controversial vote continued last month with 19 state House Democrats — many of whom [are] from the fracking region — signing a letter to state party Chairman Jim Burn that called the resolution “short sighted.”

And earlier this month eight Senate Democrats weighed in with their own letter to Burn saying they were “dumfounded” by the resolution and urged him to “re-examine” the issue.

Fracking is already a big deal in Pennsylvania, as the neat map at the link demonstrates: 65 operators, 5,982 active wells, as of June 30, 2012. Almost the entire state sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation, which is where all the good stuff is:

It will probably not surprise you that Marcellus Shale development is creating jobs, and the question of precisely how many jobs is hotly disputed, with development advocates counting the ones created by industry-supply businesses, etc., and the environmental groups defining the job creation as narrowly as possible. One estimate of direct jobs is in the neighborhood of 30,000; “indirect” jobs could be as high as 245,054.

“The Marcellus is an important new industry, and there’s certainly no question that is has, over the last several years, created employment in Pennsylvania,” said Mark Price, labor economist for the Keystone Research Center. “But it remains the fact that employment overall in that sector — you’re talking about something that is less than 0.5 percent of the workforce . . . a tiny portion of all the jobs.”

Yet industry groups such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition continue to tout the industry’s job creation, citing numbers in the millions for new jobs created by shale.

“Employment in the entire upstream unconventional oil and gas sector on a direct, indirect and induced basis will support nearly 1.8 million jobs in 2012, 2.5 million jobs in 2015, 3 million jobs in 2020, and nearly 3.5 million jobs in 2035,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle.

Of course, there are some vocal environmentalists who want to make sure fracking gets stopped in its tracks:

Pennsylvania residents petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to reopen an investigation into water quality in Dimock, after publication of an internal agency analysis that linked gas drilling to methane leaks.

Ray Kemble, who lives in the town, and Craig Stevens, who lives nearby, today delivered a petition they said was signed by 60,000 people to EPA employees in Washington. They carried a gallon of brown water they said came from a well used by Kemble.

The green site Grist.org reports:

As anti-fracking activism heats up around the country, pro-fracking Dems might find themselves increasingly at odds with their base. As we near 2016, any Democrat who wants to replace Obama might have to start singing a different tune.

I, for one, will be rooting for injuries, lasting recriminations, and alliances torn asunder.

Tags: Fracking , Pennsylvania , Environmentalism

RNC: Florida Panhandle, Colorado, Pittsburgh Looking Good



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The RNC sends along:

Exit polls show 60 percent of voters say economy is the number one issue and 60 percent say economy is getting worse or has stagnated. Voters say Romney is the best to handle the economy and they trust him to handle the deficit.

Update from Ohio – high turnout in GOP counties, low turnout in Dem counties and Biden went to Cleveland. Clearly Chicago is nervous.

Good news from the Florida panhandle, Republicans continue to outnumber Dems in Colorado, Romney had a great showing in Pittsburgh and Paul Begala is concerned with the drop in enthusiasm with young voters.

For what it’s worth, I’m hearing the GOP turnout in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, may be a record; this county was key to Pat Toomey’s win in the 2010 Senate race. The Romney campaign also sounds quite pleased about the turnout in “coal country” of Pittsburgh. But then again, these are sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

Tags: Colorado , Florida , Pennsylvania , RNC

Middle Cheese: Internals Show Romney Leading Wisconsin by One Point



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Middle Cheese, my source on the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign who talks to the Romney big cheeses regularly, writes in with a state-of-the-race update for Thursday:

Politically, Hurricane Sandy (and Gov. Chris Christie) helped President Obama, but my sense is that it was more a respite than a boost.

FL, VA, and CO are looking very solid for Romney. NV remains within reach for Romney, but favors Obama ever-so-slightly.

WI, MI, IA, PA seem to be closing well for Romney. In WI, internal GOP polling shows Romney with a 1 point lead and gaining steam.

MN and PA aren’t head fakes by Team Romney; they are legitimate opportunities to expand Mitt’s electoral map. MN has gone from “solid blue” to “lean Democrat.” Team Romney is not only buying ads in PA, but is sending Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio to campaign there today. The fact that Obama is also buying ads in PA is proof that PA is in play. Don’t be surprised if Mitt makes a stop in PA over the next few days.

According to the polls, OH remains too close to call. While the early voting trends make me nervous, my sources on the ground in Ohio tell me that the GOP ground game is as good as it has ever been. Romney, Ryan and their top 100 surrogates will hold a “Real Recovery Road” mega-rally in West Chester tomorrow evening, which should provide grassroots Republicans with a huge shot in the arm going into the weekend.

UPDATE: Moments after I hit “publish,” I see this news:

Mitt Romney is set to make a last-minute campaign stop on Sunday in Pennsylvania, The Daily has learned. Details are still being determined and with scheduling for the final days of the campaign still fluid, it’s possible Romney could still bypass the state. But two top Pennsylvania Republican officials and a Romney adviser said a large rally in the vote-rich southeastern part of the state is in the works for Sunday. The final decision is likely to be made on Friday.

Tags: Middle Cheese , Pennsylvania

The Outlook for Smith - and Romney - in Pennsylvania



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Over on the homepage, I have a look at Republican challenger Tom Smith’s bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania, a state that had seemed out of reach for the GOP much of this cycle:

Smith, a multimillionaire who made his fortune in the coal industry, is an unlikely standard-bearer for the GOP. The state’s GOP governor, Tom Corbett, backed another candidate in the primary. Smith was a registered Democrat for decades and even an Armstrong-CountyDemocratic committeeman as recently as 2010. But local Democrats said that once he was on the committee, his views and rhetoric were far too conservative for their tastes. He was active in local tea parties, and he strikes a blue-collar, populist note when he expresses impatience with Washington. In his ads, Smith projects a pleasant, straightforward demeanor, managing to denounce “what Bob Casey and the political class have done to America” without sounding nasty. He dismisses “career politicians” anddescribes himself as “just a farm boy that got misplaced in the coal mines and started my own business.” Pennsylvania’s electorate is one of the oldest, and Smith is running folksy ads pledging to protect Social Security and Medicare, featuring his mother.

For many years, the Philadelphia suburbs represented the swing region of the state. Republicans are seeing a mixed bag here this cycle. They are increasingly optimistic about Bucks County, where about 435,000 are registered to vote. Toomey won this county over Joe Sestak in the 2010 Senate race, 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent. But the other major suburban counties, Montgomery County (with 553,104 registered voters) and Delaware County (about 395,000 registered voters) are looking like tougher nuts to crack for Republicans this cycle, compared with Bucks County.

 “Turnout in November will be down markedly from four years ago, when 5.9 million cast ballots in the ‘hope and change’ election,” Lee says. “I’d put the number at 5 to 5.5 million tops. Lower turnout clearly benefits Republicans both up and down the ticket. Turnout in western Pennsylvania in particular will be higher than in the east, because the issue of the economy is at fever-pitch levels out there. Romney is likely to win big there.”

Tags: Bob Casey , Mitt Romney , Pennsylvania , Tom Smith

Is Pennsylvania Worth a Push?



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I would watch the Pennsylvania numbers very closely in the next week to ten days. If they continue to show Romney close, you could see a real push there by the GOP, with stops by big surrogates and even Romney himself. (Paul Ryan did a rally at the airport in Pittsburgh this weekend.) But because the GOP has such an enormous gap to overcome in the registered voters numbers — 3.1 million registered Republicans, 4.2 million registered Democrats, and about 1.1 million unaffiliated or other party voters — there’s also quite a bit of skepticism and wariness about committing resources – money, staff, candidate time – that could be spent in Ohio, Wisconsin, or even Michigan.

Rest assured, the Romney camp is watching the Keystone State very carefully these days.

Tags: Pennsylvania

This Morning’s Polls Project More Heavily Democratic Electorates Than in 2008



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This morning, surveys from the New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac puts Obama ahead by 10 in Ohio, up by 12 in Pennsylvania, and up by 9 in Florida.

Since the question of whether the party ID within polling samples is realistic seems to be the issue of the week, let’s take a look at how these samples stack up to the 2008 exit polls.

Ohio 2008 exits: 39 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, 30 percent Independent.

Ohio New York Times/Quinnipiac 2012 sample: 35 percent Democrat, 26 percent Republican, 35 percent Independent.

In this sample, the partisan split is D+9 compared to D+8 four years ago, and the GOP is five percentage points smaller than in 2008.

Over in the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost looks at recent Ohio polls and “finds Gravis, Washington Post, and Fox basically see a replay of 2008 while Rasmussen and the Purple Poll see roughly something in between 2004 and 2008.” They envision Democrat turnout being on par with last cycle or even better . . . and this surge of Democratic enthusiasm comes at the same time the president has lost considerable ground among independents. Possible? I suppose, but again, why?

Pennsylvania 2008 exits: 44 percent Democrat, 37 percent Republican, 18 percent Independent.

Pennsylvania New York Times/Quinnipiac 2012 sample: 39 percent Democrat, 28 percent Republican, 27 percent Independent.

Somehow a D+7 split has turned into D+11 split, and Republicans’ share of the electorate is nine percentage points less than they were four years ago.

Florida 2008 exits: 37 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican, 29 percent Independent.

Florida New York Times/Quinnipiac 2012 sample: 36 percent Democrat, 27 percent Republican, 33 percent Independent.

Each party’s share only shifts a few percentage points, but the overall split goes from D+3 to D+9.

Three factors that are quasi-defenses of the current pollsters:

1) Perhaps conservative or Republican-leaning voters are more likely to flip between identifying themselves as independents or GOP. Perhaps these are Tea Party conservatives fed up with a GOP they find too “establishment,” etc. If the Democratic share of the vote were stable, it would just mean voters are shifting between these two other self-classifications.

2) Party ID solidifies as Election Day gets closer. Someone noted yesterday that a voter is more likely to self-identify with a major party just before or just after they’ve cast a vote for a major party’s candidate. The polls in late October may have higher percentages of voters identifying with the GOP, the Democrats, or both.

3) Conversely, in an extremely negative campaign environment, voters may be reluctant to identify with either party; a view of “a pox on both your houses” may make some voters prefer to identify as independents. So perhaps self-identified independents’ share of the vote is going to be higher this cycle than in 2008.

Notice that in Florida, Romney’s winning independents, 49 percent to 46 percent; in Ohio, Romney is leading independents 47 percent to 46 percent (although that’s down from a 48–41 lead in late August) and in Pennsylvania . . . well, Quinnipiac didn’t provide the breakdown of independents in the Keystone State.

Tags: Barack Obama , Florida , Mitt Romney , Ohio , Pennsylvania , Polling

So Why Did Obama Go to Pennsylvania This Week?



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Rep. Jason Altmire, Democrat of Pennsylvania, tells Chuck Todd, “statewide the polls have shown [Obama]‘s not doing well right now.”

Former congressman Paul Kanjorski, another Pennsylvania Democrat, tells CBS News, “If the election were held today, I don’t have any doubt he would lose [his former] district and the state.”

This sounds like good news to me. *Ahem*. “To me.” Hint, hint.

Tags: Barack Obama , Jason Altmire , Paul Kanjorski , Pennsylvania

Quinnipiac: Pennsylvanians Still Sour on Obama, But Not Warm to Romney, Perry



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Quinnipiac unveils some new numbers in Pennsylvania this morning, showing good news for Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey, two Republicans:

With an 8-point jump among women voters, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett gets a 50 – 32 percent approval rating from voters, his best score so far, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Gov. Corbett wins 72 – 15 percent approval from Republicans and 52 – 32 percent approval from independent voters, while Democrats disapprove 47 – 29 percent.

Pennsylvania voters say 62 – 30 percent that the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale outweigh environmental concerns. Even Democrats back drilling 50 – 41 percent.

Voters support 64 – 27 percent a new tax on gas drilling companies, with 51 – 37 percent support among Republicans.

. . . Pennsylvania voters approve 43 – 32 percent of the job U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is doing. Approval is 61 – 16 percent among Republicans and 41 – 34 percent among independent voters, while Democrats disapprove 43 – 31 percent.

Yesterday, the pollster found that respondents oppose switching the way Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are counted (though it’s closer than you might think):

By a slight 52 – 40 percent majority, Pennsylvania voters want to continue the state’s current winner-take-all Electoral College system, rather than switch to a system where Electoral College votes are awarded based on the winner in each congressional district, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Voters say 57 – 32 percent that Republicans in the State Legislature want to switch to a district-by-district count to help Republican presidential candidates, rather than to better reflect the will of the voters, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. And voters say 51 – 38 percent that the switch will diminish Pennsylvania’s importance as a key presidential swing state.

Finally, Pennsylvanians remain sour on Obama’s performance as president, but not yet terribly warmed up to the Republican options:

President Barack Obama gets 45 percent to 43 percent for Romney, a tie and virtually unchanged from the August 2 Quinnipiac University poll; President Obama tops Perry 46 – 40 percent, also virtually unchanged; Obama beats Santorum 45 – 42 percent, compared to 45 – 43 percent. Pennsylvania voters disapprove 54 – 43 percent of the job Obama is doing, unchanged from the results August 2. Voters say 51 – 44 percent that Obama does not deserve a second term, compared to 52 – 42 percent August 2.

Of course, if President Obama loses a state he carried by 10 points in 2008 like Pennsylvania, he’s probably losing a whole lot of closer swing states as well . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Pennsylvania

Could Pennsylvania Republicans End Obama’s Reelection Hopes?



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Could the 2012 election be decided in the coming months by the Pennsylvania state legislature?

Well, in a way… yeah.

PA Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi wants to allot Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes on a congressional district by district basis, rather than the current system of winner take all.

In a state like Pennsylvania, where Democratic candidates for President have won every election since 1988, it could be a way for Republicans to avoid a total loss.

Pileggi says he wants to change that “winner-take-all system,” and guide the system used in Maine and Nebraska through Pennsylvania’s Legislature this fall, before the 2012 presidential votes are cast. Republicans in both chambers say the bill has a strong chance of moving fast enough to be approved for next year.

“The system we have now, is a winner-take-all system, the system I am proposing would more precisely conform the electoral college to the popular vote and it would make the presidential election more relevant across the state, give voters more of a sense that they are active participants in the presidential election.”

As PoliticsPa notes, in 2008, that would have meant President Barack Obama, who won the state 21-0 under the current winner-takes-all law, would have won by a mere 11-10, if Pileggi’s law was in place. Mind you, Obama won Pennsylvania, 55 percent to 44 percent; it is quite possible he will underperform that total. Also note that the state’s U.S. House delegation shifted from 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans to 12 Republicans and 7 Democrats in 2010. The state is losing one congressional district in the coming redistricting.

If Republicans wanted to muscle it through, they would have the votes; the GOP holds a 30-20 majority in the Senate, and a 112-90 majority in the House, and Governor Tom Corbett is a Republican, who has already indicated support for the idea.

Moving 10 to 12 votes from Obama to the Republican would drastically alter the calculation to reach 270 electoral votes, with Obama’s chances of retaining Indiana almost nil, and North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio and that lone elector in Nebraska looking quite iffy.

UPDATE: A surprisingly good article about the proposal from… Mother Jones. Really.

After their epic sweep of state legislative and gubernatorial races in 2010, Republicans also have total political control of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, three other big states that traditionally go Democratic and went for Obama in 2012.

Nor is there anything obviously illegal or unconstitutional about the GOP plan. “The Constitution is pretty silent on how the electors are chosen in each state,” says Karl Manheim, a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles. The GOP plan “would certainly increase the political advantage of politically gerrymandering your districts,” he adds.

For now, the Democrats’—and Obama’s—only real way of fighting back is political. “The political solution if there is one is going to have to come from getting people outraged about this,” [Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale University] says. “This is not American fair play, it’s a partisan steamroller changing the fundamental rules of the small-d democratic game for purely party advantage. Trying to structure the world so that even the person who wins the state loses the state’s electoral vote: that is new under the sun.” He adds, “This is big.”

That article notes that there are no equivalent opportunities on the other side, states where Democrats have legislative majorities in state that is reliably Republican in presidential races. West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas come closest, and it’s not clear Obama would win many districts in those states.

The heat that would come on Pennsylvania GOP legislators would make the Wisconsin protests look like a tersely-worded letter of disapproval. Some Republicans are likely to be wary of a proposal that appears to “changing the rules after the game has started.”

But most of these states have a simple political geography: vast swaths of Republican-leaning rural and sometimes suburban districts balanced by, and sometimes outweighted, by densely-packed, deeply Democratic urban districts. It’s not surprising that frustrated Republicans would tire of seeing their votes rendered moot by high (some would argue suspiciously high) turnout in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, etc. often gives Democrats the edge in these key states.

The prize for the audacious move would be enormous for Republicans: They would establish, arguably, a GOP lock on the presidency until the country’s demographics and political geography changed.

Tags: Barack Obama , Pennsylvania

52% of Pennsylvanians Think Obama Shouldn’t Be Reelected



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Quinnipiac surveys Pennsylvania voters finds bad news for President Obama is more plentiful that coal and steel there:

The protracted slugfest over raising the national debt limit leaves President Barack Obama with a 54 – 43 percent disapproval among Pennsylvania voters, but he scores better than Republicans or Democrats in Congress, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. 

President Obama has acted more responsibly in the debt ceiling debate than Congressional Republicans, voters say 44 – 37 percent in the independent Quinnipiac University poll concluded Sunday as agreement on a new debt limit was announced.

Looking at the other players in the national debt debate, Pennsylvania voters:Disapprove 68 – 28 percent of the job Republicans in Congress are doing;Disapprove 67 – 28 percent of Democrats in Congress.

Pennsylvania voters say 52 – 42 percent that Obama does not deserve to be reelected. Matching the president against possible Republican challengers shows:

  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 44 percent to Obama’s 42 percent;
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 43 percent to Obama’s 45 percent;
  • Obama leads Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann 47 – 39 percent;
  • Obama tops Texas Gov. Rick Perry 45 – 39 percent.

“Any good poll is a snapshot of public opinion and this survey shows President Barack Obama at a low point just before a major announcement on the national debt limit, after a long and bitter debate,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Let’s see how the public reacts to the news and whether today’s results are a baseline for measuring future results, or whether they show the president is in big trouble in Pennsylvania, a key swing state.”

The Santorum number jumps out, as the former Pennsylvania senator has not gotten much traction nationally and was not considered to be terribly popular in his home state.

Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney , Pennsylvania , Rick Santorum

Arizona’s Immigration Law Is Polling Well . . . in Pennsylvania



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Out from Quinnipiac this morning:

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, the Republican candidate for Governor, has a 44 – 37 percent lead over Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, the Democrat, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. 

This compares to a 43 – 37 percent Corbett lead in a May 13 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University. In this latest survey, independent voters back Corbett 44 – 29 percent, as do Republicans 86 – 4 percent.  Democrats back Onorato 69 – 13 percent.

Pennsylvania voters say 47 – 34 percent they want the state to adopt an immigration law similar to that of Arizona.  Voters approve 52 – 27 percent of the Arizona law and by 60 – 27 percent they think the Obama Administration’s lawsuit to block its implementation is a bad idea.

One of my poll-watching readers wrote in yesterday:

Did you check this headline out in the New York Times, “Governors Voice Grave Concerns on Immigration”? Or as Drudge teased it, “Obama Suit vs. AZ is ‘Toxic.’”’  As I stated before this, hubris will be Obama’s undoing, and as I have said before I am in the moderate camp on this subject.  Secure our border, verify security, then begin process of amnesty.  The GOP is playing all of this close to the vest now.  But when they actually play it out come election time the dam will break.  Frankly the dam should have broken already, but the media is doing everything possible to not allow any negatives be “confidently reported.”  However, when the campaign begins, that will all change as the media no longer controls the information wave; and you wonder why Obama was so angered by the Supreme Court’s decision on campaign finance reform.

Tags: Barack Obama , Immigration , Pennsylvania

Doomsday May Come Before Toomsday For Arlen Specter



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I’ll make an audacious prediction: Joe Sestak will beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.

Sestak appears to be closing the gap a bit. I imagine Specter’s name ID advantage built most of his early lead, and Sestak’s television offensive is starting to pick up steam. Specter is trying a Crist-style negative barrage, but I don’t think that is going to work for a lot of entrenched incumbents this year. Negative ads haven’t done much for Jon Corzine or Charlie Crist in recent months.

What’s more, I think this is a rather important test of the self-respect of Pennsylvania Democrats. President Obama and Vice President Biden, eager to get that 60th vote, tried to ensure a clear primary for Specter. But ultimately, who represents Keystone State Democrats isn’t up to some guy from Delaware and some guy from Hawaii California New York Illinois the District of Columbia. Most Pennsylvania Democrats have been voting against Arlen Specter for the better part of a generation; it ought to take more than a year and a half of toeing the party line for them to forget all the times they’ve disagreed with him, and/or his recent murmurs that maybe he should have remained in the GOP. If they really do back Specter because the DSCC tell them to, they rank among biggest political cheap dates of all time.

I think Pat Toomey will have a slightly tougher race against Sestak; by eliminating the incumbent, it takes away the clearest contrast between a candidate of change and a candidate of more-of-the-same. But Toomey will be running against Washington, and either Democrat will be seen as part of “the system.” Sestak voted for health care, voted for the stimulus, voted for cap-and-trade, and he’s F-rated by the NRA.

(I would argue that the ideal scenario for Toomey fans is a narrow win for Specter, and that scenario seems quite possible.)

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak , Pat Toomey , Pennsylvania

Doomsday May Come Before Toomsday for Arlen Specter



Text  



I’ll make an audacious prediction: Joe Sestak will beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.

Sestak appears to be closing the gap a bit. I imagine Specter’s name-ID advantage built most of his early lead, and Sestak’s television offensive is starting to pick up steam. Specter is trying a Crist-style negative barrage, but I don’t think that is going to work for a lot of entrenched incumbents this year. Negative ads haven’t done much for Jon Corzine or Charlie Crist in recent months.

What’s more, I think this is a rather important test of the self-respect of Pennsylvania Democrats. President Obama and Vice President Biden, eager to get that 60th vote, tried to ensure a clear primary for Specter. But ultimately, who represents Keystone State Democrats isn’t up to some guy from Delaware and some guy from Hawaii California New York Illinois the District of Columbia. Most Pennsylvania Democrats have been voting against Arlen Specter for the better part of a generation; it ought to take more than a year and a half of toeing the party line for them to forget all the times they’ve disagreed with him, and/or his recent murmurs that maybe he should have remained in the GOP. If they really do back Specter because the DSCC tells them to, they rank among the biggest political cheap dates of all time.

I think Pat Toomey will have a slightly tougher race against Sestak; by eliminating the incumbent, it takes away the clearest contrast between a candidate of change and a candidate of more-of-the-same. But Toomey will be running against Washington, and either Democrat will be seen as part of “the system.” Sestak voted for health care, voted for the stimulus, voted for cap-and-trade, and is F-rated by the NRA.

(I would argue that the ideal scenario for Toomey fans is a narrow win for Specter, and that scenario seems quite possible.)

Tags: Arlen Specter , Joe Sestak , Pat Toomey , Pennsylvania

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