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RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

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The Most Absurd Post-Election Spin

There are a lot of absurd post-election memes floating around out there. For instance, I've seen people suggest that NY-23 has national implications, but the GOP takeover of the NJ governor's race and its running of the tables in VA (winning all three statewide races and extending its majority in the House of Delegates) were purely local. That one makes me chuckle. If there was an Olympic medal to be had for pretzel logic, it would probably win the silver.

But not the gold. The gold must go to the ridiculous notion that the GOP is in so much trouble because it is divided, as evidenced by the results in NY-23. Never mind the fact that the party came together in New Jersey and Virginia. No: the divisions in a district that saw just 135,000 votes cast is a sign that the GOP is divided.

I think this is ultimately a faulty argument, but I can see how one would make it (kind of). The reason it gets the gold is not by an error of commission, but of omission. For, the GOP's divisions - whatever they may be - are utterly, totally dwarfed by the continuing divisions in the Democratic Party. Not only in scale, but in significance. Republicans might be divided over the symbolic role of Sarah Palin in the party, but Democrats are divided over what to do about health care.

Consider: three Democratic House committee chairs have committed to vote against Pelosi's bill on Saturday: Bart Gordon of Tennessee (Science), Colin Peterson of Minnesota (Agriculture), and Ike Skelton of Missouri (Armed Services).

Consider: up to 30 House Blue Dogs are considering voting no.

Consider: they're still going to lose at least a few pro-life Democrats on the vote, even if they adopt the compromise language proposed by Brad Ellsworth.

Consider: the House has decided to punt on the issue of immigration reform in the bill, knowing full well it will explode the fragile coalition they are putting together. Here's Politico:

And gone, for the moment, is an immigration fight that threatened to derail the entire bill when Hispanic lawmakers protested a move to include Senate verification language that would bar illegal immigrants from purchasing insurance through the exchanges.

That fight, like the one over biofuels, will be waged on another day, in a showdown with the Senate over just about everything else in the bill. For now, it seems Speaker Nancy Pelosi has finally exhausted enough of her weary troops into the "yes" position.

And lest you think that the House Hispanic Caucus is kidding around, consider the following from The Hill:

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus was also weighing its options on what to do about a push by some vulnerable centrist members to block illegal immigrants from being able to buy insurance on the bill's "exchanges," even with no subsidy.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said he "would have a hard time voting for" a bill or procedural measure that did that.

"I'm tired of feeding hatred and bigotry," Gutierrez said.

He's talking about "feeding hatred and bigotry" on the Democratic side of the aisle. Remember, no Republicans are involved in the House process!

This does not even get into the tensions between the House and Senate. As significant as the tensions within the House are, I still expect Pelosi to get to 218 on her bill. The real fireworks will come if/when they get around to merging the bills (assuming that Reid can produce something that get can to 60 votes in his own chamber...substantially more difficult than Pelosi's task). After all, it was John Conyers, the Democratic Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who once said that the Democrats were "in trouble" because of Max Baucus, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Senate Finance's product, incidentally, is well liked by the Blue Dogs, who want the final product to be more like it. But then again Raul Grijalva's reaction to it was that it did not have "legitimacy." He's the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus.

But divisions are a Republican problem this week! Yep.

So, congratulations to all of you pundits spinning the NY-23 race as a sign of the crippling divisions within the GOP. I cannot offer you an actual Gold Medal in Pretzel Logic, but perhaps I'll offer you a complimentary copy of this 1974 classic from Becker and Fagan:


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-Jay Cost