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Medicaid expansion could save Sen. Mary Landrieu's seat.
Democrats in Louisiana and Montana are smartly looking to Medicaid expansion ballot initiatives to try to help drive turnout in November's elections. The efforts are couched as a way to shore up the re-election campaigns of Sen. Mary Landrieu and recently appointed John Walsh, but could have real impact down ballot, if done right.
Activist groups and state lawmakers are working to get Obamacare's Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Louisiana and Montana, where they have vulnerable candidates and GOP officials have refused to adopt the provision.
"Turnout is the biggest challenge that Democrats face," one Democratic operative told TPM. "There are a variety of ways that you can meet your turnout goals, and one of them is certainly ballot initiatives. Medicaid expansion really could be a powerful tool to turn voters out."
The first trick is getting the question on the ballot. In Montana, activists are required to gather a little more than 24,000 signatures by June 20. The order is taller in Louisiana: getting the GOP-controlled legislature to approve it. Its odds probably aren't great, local reporters say, but a few GOP lawmakers did express an openness to the expansion last year. The bill has already been introduced in the state Senate by a Democrat. [...]
It's not likely to be a silver bullet for saving the Senate, but it could make a difference in what are expected to be tight races. If voters who ordinarily would skip the midterms instead come out because they want to advance Obama's most important domestic achievement, that can only benefit Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA) and John Walsh (MT).
Medicaid expansion is very popular, particularly among the people Democrats need to get turned out: "63 percent of Louisianans favored Medicaid expansion and, generally across the South, support was higher in key Democratic groups: 85 percent of blacks, 66 percent of women and 66 percent of voters ages 18 to 24. Where putting it on the ballot could also really help—if state Democrats are organized enough—is in the legislative races in these states. Keeping the U.S. Senate Democratic is critical, but so is building Democratic state legislatures.
There are plenty of natural allies for Democrats at the state and local level for this. The number one ally: the medical community and in particular hospitals who see greater risks and costs for having to treat the uninsured who fall into the Medicaid gap. That risk goes beyond just the uninsured, though, because if a local hospital closes because of lack of Medicaid funding, everyone in the community suffers. This is a potent economic issue, one that Democratic candidates at every level should be running on.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM PST.