Suthers likely to see little gain and lots of pain from anti-‘Obamacare’ lawsuit

Republicans running for office still talk stridently about opposing “Obamacare” health reform legislation, even though the heat around the new law among the general public has faded and the political gains to be made from the position are far from clear. Among GOP states attorney generals who joined the lawsuit meant to block the legislation, the effectiveness of the suit measured by campaign gains is on a par with the dim view of the suit’s likely effectiveness in the courts.

TPM rounds up the recent fortunes of some of the main players in the suit, like Florida’s Bill McCollum, who spearheaded the suit as part of his campaign for governor. The suit brought McCollum the national spotlight when he was the presumptive Republican nominee for governor. As TPM reports, he is now trailing GOP opponent Rick Scott. In Colorado, John Suthers was sailing toward November unopposed until he joined the lawsuit. The move spurred serious Democratic contender Stan Garnett to enter the race with a bang, calling the suit frivolous partisan politics that failed to serve the people of Colorado.


This is not to say that fighting the health care bill is hurting these guys with the base. It’s even possible that they would be worse off if they hadn’t sued. But what we are saying is that it isn’t helping them much, either.

Let’s first take a look at the hard cases:

Take a look at Tuesday’s primary in South Carolina, where Attorney General Henry McMaster boasted in his gubernatorial campaign that he was protecting “South Carolina’s sovereignty, “standing tall for states’ rights,” and opposing Obama on health care. McMaster came in third place with 17%, failing to make the GOP runoff.

And in Florida, state Attorney General Bill McCollum joined the lawsuits at a time when he was the presumptive Republican nominee for governor at time he joined the lawsuits. But no longer. He is now trailing in a new poll against self-financing former health care executive Rick Scott — who is touting his own opposition to the health care bill, and the activism he spearheaded during the debates.

In Michigan, state Attorney General Mike Cox is running for governor in a five-way Republican primary. And he has not broken out of the pack. The TPM Poll Average currently has him running in third place with 17.6%, behind Rep. Pete Hoekstra at 24.4% and businessman Rick Snyder with 18.5%.

And last but not least, look at Alabama Attorney General Troy King, who joined the lawsuits — he already lost his primary to Luther Strange, an attorney and the 2006 GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, by a margin of 60%-40%. (Strange’s campaign was based on King allegedly not doing a good enough job in fighting public corruption. It should be noted that he also favors suing against the health care law.)

A sign of the waning power of the “Obamacare” fight in Colorado is the struggle conservative Independent Institute founder Jon Caldara has been facing trying to land his anti-Obamacare initiative on the ballot. Despite the fiery health care rhetoric that has filled tea party gatherings for a year, Caldara has failed to win the requisite number of signatures in support of his initiative and is now suing the state over laws he believes have made initiative signature gathering prohibitively expensive. Plenty of other initiatives have already made the ballot.

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton recently released a TV ad where she says she would “rip Obamacare out by the roots”. As she made plain in a radio interview weeks ago, however, she doesn’t even believe she can repeal the legislation, so the rhetoric is just sloganeering and probably bad strategy at this point. It’s likely the vast majority of voters either don’t really care if she “rips Obamacare out by the roots” or are deeply turned off by the idea she would try.

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