A one-word answer helps to explain the reason why 39 Democrats broke rank from their party and rebuked the White House in supporting a Republican bill to help reverse the cancellation of many Americans’ individual insurance plans -- politics.
For the most part, these 39 Democrats face either tough re-election bids or competitive statewide campaigns in next year’s midterm elections.
Of the more than three dozen who supported the measure, 23 were newly-elected members, most of whom face tough re-election bids in their swing or GOP-leaning districts. They include Ron Barber (AZ), Ami Bera (CA), Cheri Bustos (IL), Bill Enyart (IL), Pete Gallego (TX), Joe Garcia (FL), Ann Kuster (NH), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Patrick Murphy (FL), Rick Nolan (MN), Scott Peters (CA), Raul Ruiz (CA), Carol Shea Porter (NH).
The others represent varying degrees of competitive races too, or are often perennial top targets for Republicans – such as John Barrow (GA), Tim Bishop (NY), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Jerry McNerney (CA), Bill Owens (NY), Collin Peterson (MN), and Nick Rahall (WV).
And two other Democrats voting for the GOP bill -- Bruce Braley of Iowa and Gary Peters of Michigan -- are running for statewide Senate seats next year. While Democrats right now are favored to win these open Senate seats, a growing GOP could make them more competitive.
Other Democrats who voted “yes” might not face tough races, but still represent potentially competitive districts. They include Jim Costa (CA), Peter DeFazio (OR), Ron Kind (WI), Jerry McNerney (CA), Kurt Schrader, and Tim Walz (MN).
Two Democrats who opposed the GOP bill stand out -- Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ) and John Tierney (MA). Kirkpatrick -- who lost her seat in 2010 after she voted for the president’s health care reform bill but won it back last year – represents one of only seven seats in the country held by a Democrat that voted for the GOP on the presidential level the past three elections. The NRCC immediately slammed her as a “co-conspirator in President Obama’s claim that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
And Tierney, beset by investigations into his wife and brothers-in-law over a gambling ring and other crimes, survived a challenge from Republican Richard Tisei. The openly gay former state senator and lieutenant governor nominee may run again, but Tierney’s biggest worry could come in a Democratic primary. Former Marine Seth Moulton, who nearly ran in 2012, is running in the primary, and has already assembled a top-flight campaign team.
Four Republicans split with their party to oppose the bill – but more likely because it didn’t go far enough. Paul Broun (GA), who is running for Senate, said he voted against the bill because it “does nothing to address Obamacare in the longterm.” Also joining him were Ralph Hall (TX), Jim Bridenstine (OK) and Thomas Massie (KY).