NH poll shows Obama and McCain rising -- and leads to criticism of Barack's health care plan

A new day, and the bad New Hampshire polls keep coming for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. This time, it's from the Boston Globe.


  • Obama and Clinton are in a statistical toss-up with Obama up 30% to 28%. Edwards gets14%and Richardson 7%.
In the last Boston Globe poll in the beginning of November, Clinton was up 35% to 21% -- and that was already considered a tightening of the race. Look at my write-up from November 11th: "Make it three: Clinton sliding in yet another New Hampshire poll" It is telling how things have changed since then. The state that was once Clinton sure firewall in case of an Iowa stumble could now be her deathbed if she loses in the caucuses.

One internal numbers shows that a plurality of Democrats say they oppose mandates on health care. This has obviously been a huge debate on the campaign trail -- one of the only major policy disagreements that have been debated in the past few weeks.

There has been mounting criticism in the past months that Obama is giving Republicans arguments they will use in the health care battle that will follow a Democrat victory in 2008. Paul Krugman has been relentlessly hitting Obama for echoing right-wing rhetoric on health care, but this new poll that has Democratic voters opposing mandates is the most recent evidence that Obama is leading public opinion in the wrong direction -- and is convincing them of what Republicans like to argue: choice is important, forced governmental programs are dangerous, etc. Here's a short excerpt from MyDD:

In the event of an Obama presidency, Obama will have already conceded the point on a mandate, potentially opening the door for a system that is not truly universal in that more than 10 million Americans might not be covered. And because the American system generally requires compromise (notwithstanding the petulance of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.), starting positions matter greatly. By taking a starting point that arguably incorporates something less than a system with full universality and taking off the table a system with an individual mandate -- in a sense, by already compromising with the right even before the debate has begun -- Obama has greatly increased the likelihood that an eventual compromise bill stops far short of full universality.
Even more troublesome, Obama may have also helped take a mandate off the table for other potential Democratic presidents, particularly Clinton and Edwards, both of whom incorporate a personal mandate into their plan. If a majority of Democrats don't support a mandate, then there's just no way that a program with a mandate is going to make it through Congress.


  • Mitt Romney is now barely ahead of McCain: 28% to 25%, with Giuliani down at 14% and Huckabee getting 10%.
  • 6 weeks ago, Romney was massively on top, 32% to Giuliani's 21% and McCain's 17%. These trend-lines are very much a confirmation of everything we've seen in the past 2 weeks.
It is really no surprise that Romney is now going after McCain given that he is sinking fast in New Hampshire. Just like Clinton, Romney could now be eliminated in the state in which he was pretty much sure he would win.

And to make matters worse for Romney, the Concord Monitor has just anti-endorsed him, calling him a phony candidate that New Hampshire has to stop. Romney "most surely must be stopped, they say, calling NH to "vote no." They basically accuse him of artificially having built himself up in the past few years as the ideal conservative candidate. It's really a hilarious must-read editorial that McCain has already started circulating.

We have now reached Christmas, which means numbers are unlikely to change much anywhere until January 3rd. Given that Iowa is tied, it means that if Obama or Clinton wins Iowa they will surely boost themselves up to a New Hampshire victory 5 days later. And if except if Edwards pulls through, we are in for an all-out NH brawl. Among the GOP, Romney would surely pull through if he comes in first in Iowa, but is it realistic to expect him to hold off McCain if he can't even win in Iowa? We'll soon know -- 9 more days to Iowa!

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  • Blaming Obama for correctly assessing the opinions of the Democratic rank and file is totally upside-down. Obama is not leading Dems in the wrong direction.

    Dems, even Dems who strongly support universal care, do not like the idea of coercing the working poor to spend their money on health care when they may have other more immediate needs like rent, food, and utilities.
    Just look at how well mandated car insurance doesn't work. I think most estimates are that ten to twenty percent of all drivers do not have insurance. Why, because people can't afford it.

    Obama does not have the power to lead Dems on this point. He has correctly assessed the publics underlying opposition to mandates. Mandates would be a sitting duck for opponents of universal coverage.

    Obama's plan to concentrate on cost controls and making insurance more affordable as a first step is far more "doable" politically.

    By Anonymous upper left, At 23 December, 2007 15:12  

  • Well said, upper left.

    As someone who was without insurance for years because i am self employed and couldn't afford private insurance, i know first hand, the problem wasn't that i just needed someone to force me to buy it.

    I think the reason polls are starting to shift against mandates is because people are finally starting to understand that when Hillary and Edwards talk about mandates, they aren't talking about a mandate that everyone gets free insurance. It's a mandate on the uninsured to go buy it themselves.

    Mandates are a TERRIBLE IDEA.

    Asking a family of 4 who makes $48k per year to spend $12k on private insurance, is crazy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 23 December, 2007 15:58  

  • Obama has actually expressed that ultimately he prefers a single-payer system that eliminates the insurance companies as a middle-man. I believe he still prefers to keep the medical practices un-nationalised, though.

    However, in the interest of political viability (remember, the policy affects Republicans too) it is too early for a single-payer system. For this reason, Obama's proposition is to offer comprehensive plans to everyone (universal availability and coverage) as an option.

    While I would personally prefer a fully nationalised or at least a single-payer system, I also recognise the huge obstacle of a sizable portion of the population being predisposed to oppose either. I even surmise that there may be an even-larger portion that is opposed to a halfway solution that is MANDATED because it does not bring all of the benefits.

    In light of "the art of the possible," Obama's plan seems to be the one that at this point in history would be the most acceptable first step.

    By Anonymous roo_P, At 23 December, 2007 16:42  

  • Mandates on Health Insurance would be dead on arrival to Congress. The American Public, including the majority of liberals and conservatives, do not want a system where the government requires you to spend money on unaffordable health insurance.

    I personally believe that Obama is not doing as well as his poll numbers would indicate. He is a novelty to most, sans his patrons from Illinois. Three years in the Senate would be an easy track record to defend. Don't be surprised in Obama finishes third in Iowa.

    By Anonymous Southern Slav, At 23 December, 2007 18:15  

  • The winner of Iowa will surely win New Hampshire? Historically that hasn't been true.

    By Anonymous Desider, At 23 December, 2007 19:41  

  • Mandates do not lead to universal coverage anymore than the mandate to have insurance to drive a car means that everyone who drives a car on the road has auto insurance (and that's even with fines and other penalities in place). One of the reasons that a plurality of Dems in NH are opposed to mandates is they see the disaster such mandates are causing in the neighboring state of Massachusetts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 23 December, 2007 23:59  

  • Obama has been very clear on this - ideally, he would prefer a single-payer system, but we live in the real world, where its politically impossible to foist a mandate on folks when the underlying cost isn't yet known. Instead, he wants to focus on determining true costs, and to begin with mandated protection for children, the most vulnerable constituency.

    The notion that he is somehow leading public opinion in the wrong direction is perverse. The public is rightly wary of these visionary plans to change the entire health care system in a single step. We've had 7+ years of a visionary with a sweeping world-view who has been struggling to bring stubborn facts into line. Obama wants to start with the critical element - price - where he can marshal broad political support for the end-result. Once that's done, success may breed further success.

    As for Krugman, his real objection may be to Obama's post-modern political philosophy: Top-down, traditional government-centric responses may not be the preferred route in every case. There are many areas where a blend of public- and private sector initiatives solve a problem more effectively than a hierarchical government-managed program.

    By Anonymous Zoot, At 24 December, 2007 05:21  

  • It doesn't really matter what the future president has in mind because the matter is really up to congress. There is no way, IMO, that a universal mandate will pass as there are enough Dem senators who would block it for the very reasons stated above. I also spent most of my life unable to afford insurance, and arguably, a universal mandate is a pretty republican idea. It is a free-market approach that guarantees more revenues for the private insurance industry. Believe me, I hate writing this as I can't stand Barack Obama. He is wrong on just about every issue. But on this one, he is dead on.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 24 December, 2007 10:16  

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