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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Bluedog whisperer

Exra Klein remains convinced that he understands bluedog psychology. I continue to disagree.

He writes of blue dogs "From their perspective, this is a better bill than it was before."

I think he has assumed that one can reduce policy to one dimension : left-right.

For example, it is clear that the Senate bill is unappealing to, among everyone else in the whole world, Bluedogs, because of the cornhusker kickback. This is not a left-right issue -- this is a sleazy and extremely dumb vs primate level intelligence issue (as is proven by the fact that Nelson doesn't support the kickback any more).

Even counting the reconciliation sidecar as read and passed, it is not clear to me why blue dogs would prefer a mixture of an excise tax and a tax on high incomes to the surtax on the super rich.

This is a move to the right *and* a change which creates an excellent issue for Republicans. The surtax is very popular. The excise tax is very unpopular. Representatives who fear the voters should be much more reluctant to vote for an excise tax.

Now it is true that bluedogs don't seem to care about public opinion at all. They are deficit hawks and care about paygo. The explanation (due to among others Matt Yglesias and probably Ezra Klein) is that their aim is to get on TV by appealing to the elite beltway journalistic consensus.

But now their seats are in danger. I can imagine that they suddenly really really don't want to vote for an excise tax.

Most of this is neither here nor there. All vulnerable Democrats have no interest as strong as passage of a health care bill -- any health care bill.

The dynamic is that they need the bill to pass but don't want to vote for it. I predict a very tense roll call as each blue dog hopes some other blue dog will take one for the team.

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