I didn’t mean for my NR-Dead Tree analysis of Finance Committee chairman and health-care negotiator Sen. Max Baucus to line up so closely with the findings of a DailyKos-sponsored poll published the same day!
The poll was conducted in Montana, which Baucus has represented in Congress since the 1970s, and shows that 55 percent of his fellow Democrats “disagree with his actions on health care.” It also shows that 47 percent of Montanans of all political stripes support “creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase,” while 43 percent oppose such a plan (leaving 10 percent “unsure”).
This might surprise some people who expect Montanans to be a bit more libertarian, and predisposed against government largesse. But you’d not be entirely correct. Baucus, a consummate political animal, has always guarded his right flank warily. But the days when Baucus was a lone liberal ranger are over. Nowadays, most Montana pols are not to the senator’s right, but his left. There is only a single Republican, the at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg, among eight statewide officeholders. From my profile of Baucus:
Montana has always had a touch of the prairie socialism more often found in Minnesota or Saskatchewan, particularly on the issue of health care. The governor, Brian Schweitzer, first made his political reputation by ferrying seniors across the border to Alberta to fill their prescriptions. Jon Tester, Montana’s junior senator, expressed sympathy for single-payer health care on the campaign trail…
Nonetheless, I doubt the DailyKos poll will faze Baucus. He’s the ultimate secure incumbent, winning his races in 2008 and 2002 by 73 and 63 percent, respectively. He hasn’t even felt the need to hold town halls this August, instead stopping in, as if on a lark, at coffee shops across Montana. Moreover, he has made himself king of the Democratic party machine in Montana, such as it exists. Recently, he hosted a fundraiser to build up the war chest of the more populist Jon Tester, Montana’s junior senator, who does not face re-election until 2012. In return, Baucus has Tester’s unflagging allegiance on the health-care issue (despite his campaign talk) and probably more.
As long as Baucus watches his right — the West has a history of voter insurgencies that sweep a whole party from power — he will be fine. NR subscribers can read my whole profile of Baucus and his political context. Don’t get the Dead Tree edition? You really ought to subscribe.