The healthcare war may be over, but the battle has just begun

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 For anyone who thought that last week’s climactic vote on the healthcare reform bill would reduce the toxic levels of partisan rancor in Washington, think again! If anything, President Obama’s hard-fought victory has only served to blow the lid off the Republican party’s boiling cauldron of rage, releasing a vast cloud of crazy that seems unlikely to dissipate any time soon.

 

Quite the week for Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello, who voted in favor of the Senate’s healthcare reform legislation on March 19 and saw his brother’s address posted on the Internet for protest purposes only days later.

And, to nobody’s surprise, leading the right-wing offensive is none other than Virginia’s ubiquitous Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who took time out from his busy schedule of harassing college administrators and challenging global warming science to file a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate portions of the new law.

Although most legal experts rate the Cooch’s chances of success somewhere between infinitesimal and nonexistent, that’s not really the point. The real purpose of these anti-mandate lawsuits is to rile up the base, and to provide ongoing, high-profile resistance to the Democratic agenda heading into the 2010 midterm elections.

With that in mind, let’s fire up the old superlative prognostication machine and try to figure out whose healthcare vote might help them, and whose is likely to lead to a congressional cataclysm come November. 

On the right side of the aisle, there were zero surprises—every Virginia elephant voted no. And trust us, these votes will do absolutely nothing to endanger a single Virginia Republican. The only real chance for a Dem pickup would require Frank Wolf, who has represented Virginia’s moderate- to left-leaning 10th district since 1980, to get picked off by a primary challenger before the general election. A not-very-likely scenario, believe us.

As for the Dems, they suffered two Old Dominion defections on the final healthcare vote: Representatives Glenn Nye and Rick Boucher. For a while, it looked as if Gerry Connolly, the 11th district’s freshmen Democratic Representative, might also jump ship. (He was a conspicuous no-show when President Obama held a healthcare rally in his district.) But in the end he swallowed hard and took one for the team.

Our sense of things is that Boucher—who has won election in his conservative southwestern district an impressive 14 times—was one of the members given a “pass” by House leadership to vote no. But Nye, currently serving his first term in a district that Obama won (albeit barely), had no such excuse.

Finally, there’s our hometown representative, Tom Perriello, who voted yes in the face of increasingly deranged levels of right-wing vitriol. (Most recently, a slimeball posted what he thought was Perriello’s address online and instructed his fellow fanatics to “drop by” for a “good face-to-face chat.” As it turned out, the address belonged to Perriello’s brother, who has four young children at home.) Many are prognosticating that this vote seals Perriello’s fate, but we’re not so sure: He’s become one of the most high-profile, and well-liked, freshmen in Congress, and the seven (!) Republicans fighting to take him on have been too busy attending Tea Party debates to gain much traction.

The bottom line? Well, if we were betting today, we’d guess that Perriello, Boucher and Connolly win re-election, and that Nye is toast (perhaps even by the hands of a fellow Democrat). But as always, only time—specifically, eight months and counting—will tell.

 

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