The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 24, 2013

House foe of health overhaul still top GOP target

WASHINGTON — Listen carefully when Republicans say they can blame almost every House Democrat for the flaws of the health care overhaul. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., is the exception.

He’s never voted in favor of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. It’s a key reason the nine-term Democrat is still in Congress. It might be enough in 2014, although he barely won last year. In a district redrawn by Republicans for Republicans, McIntyre is the GOP’s top Democratic target in the battle for control of the House.

Instead of Obama at the top of the ticket as he was in 2012, the state’s marquee race next year is Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s battle for re-election.

“And that’s going to be all about Obamacare,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “It’s going to take a tremendous amount of money to go out and try to convince Republicans (that) any Democrat in Washington is helpful as it relates to eliminating the Affordable Care Act.”

If Burr is right, then the political perils of “Obamacare” are so potent that there is no immunity for any lawmaker of the president’s party, even for Democrats like McIntyre and recently, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who have voted for its repeal. Each man squeaked to re-election in 2012 by a few hundred votes.

Last week, Matheson announced he will not run for re-election. That leaves McIntyre as the only survivor among conservative House Democrats seeking re-election in 2014 who can say he told us so about the national health care law. His biggest problem may be that he remains a member of the president’s party.

“In the South, Obamacare is not the only issue. They have very strong feelings about the president,” said Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. “There are questions about his (Obama’s) honesty and integrity...There’s a growing antagonism toward the president. That’s going to be the toughest thing for him (McIntyre) to escape.”

Voters hold Obama in low regard in increasingly personal terms following the disastrous rollout of the web site for enrolling for insurance coverage. Democrats, even Obama’s allies, have publicly said they’ll deal more cautiously with him now. Americans view Obama similarly: A clear majority of adults, 56 percent, say “honest” does not describe Obama well, according to The Associated Press-GfK poll. That’s worse than his 52 percent rating in an October poll.

Promising Americans they could keep their health insurance only to see 4.2 million policies canceled under the law may have reversed political gains Democrats thought they had made from the government shutdown, for which the nation largely blamed Republicans. Now, many Democrats see the 2014 election as less about gaining the 17 House seats the party needs to win the majority. It’s more about not losing the seats they have.

McIntyre’s is among the most vulnerable.

That’s why the 57-year-old scion of a prominent Lumberton, N.C., family is quick to list his conservative bona fides, starting with his opposition to the president’s health care law. McIntyre, a lawyer, said his impression back in 2009 was that the law would place too much of a burden on doctors and hospitals. Recent layoffs at two area hospitals vindicate the position, he says.

Were it not for his opposition to the health care overhaul, McIntyre might well be back in private practice right now. He acknowledges that possibility — in 2012, McIntyre bested GOP rival David Rouzer by only 654 votes, the closest margin of any House race in the nation. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defeated Obama in McIntyre’s district by 19 percentage points.

The health care law, McIntyre said, was “a litmus test for some people and for others it was other things” that helped them decide how to vote. Preserving jobs in his district was his top concern at the time, he added. “Ultimately, it was not about whether it was a Democratic or Republican idea.”

McIntyre has ridden the centrist rail on a wide array of issues, bucking his party by voting against a cap-and-trade bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and against repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay service members. This month, McIntyre voted against the bipartisan budget that was supported by most House Democrats.

His opposition to the health care law has drawn the most attention. He says local Democrats “censured” him in a news release. It’s part of the reason he’s drawn a longshot primary challenger this time in county commissioner Jonathan Barfield, a realtor whose campaign motto is “time for a change,” and whose web site states plainly: “I am a strong supporter of the health care act.”

The 2010 redistricting by North Carolina’s Republican-held legislature tells much about McIntyre’s struggle. The GOP carved his home base of Lumberton out of the 7th district, replacing it with Republican-friendly areas. McIntyre’s winning margin dropped from a high of 91 percent of the vote in 1998 through the 70s to a winning percentage of 54 percent in the tea party-driven wave of 2010.

Then came redistricting and last year’s election. It took three weeks after the polls closed for McIntyre to be declared the winner, barely.

A rematch against Rouzer looms next year. Neither candidate had raised much campaign cash through November.

McIntyre knows he’s vulnerable, however vindicated he may feel by the law’s botched rollout and Obama’s apology to the nation.

His most potent weapon is his robust constituent service, a strength acknowledged by even Burr. But McIntyre is aware he’s got many constituents in his newly drawn district who may not know him.

“I’m a centrist and I’ll continue to be a centrist,” McIntyre said. “People know my heart is in my district.”

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • Governor: Closing Boston amid bomber hunt ‘tough’

    Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Gov. Deval Patrick received a call in the pre-dawn hours from a top aide telling him that police officers outside the city had just engaged in a ferocious gun battle with the two men suspected of setting the bombs and that one was dead and the other had fled.

    April 20, 2014

  • Everest avalanche reminder of risks Sherpas face

    The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.
    But they couldn’t get there quickly enough.

    April 20, 2014

  • Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 19, 2014

  • Everest avalanche kills at least 12

    An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving four missing in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak. Several more were injured.

    April 19, 2014

  • Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

    Pro-Russian insurgents defiantly refused Friday to surrender their weapons or give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine, despite a diplomatic accord reached in Geneva and overtures from the government in Kiev.

    April 19, 2014

  • Clinton to Obama: Many parallels

    Thousands of pages of documents from President Bill Clinton’s White House affirm a longtime adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
    As Clinton prepared for an August 1994 news conference in which he hoped to build public support for his struggling — and ultimately unsuccessful — health care overhaul, he told his advisers: “A lot of them want to know they can keep their own plan if they like it.”

    April 19, 2014

  • Obama voices skepticism on Russia in Ukraine

    President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism Thursday about Russian promises to de-escalate a volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow doesn’t make good on its commitments.

    April 18, 2014

  • President defending health-care law good for some Democrats

    President Barack Obama’s full-throated defense of his health-care overhaul seems perfectly timed for Democrats who want their party to embrace the law more enthusiastically.
    At a White House news conference Thursday, Obama noted that health insurance enrollments under the new law are higher than expected, and costs are lower.

    April 18, 2014

  • Deal reached on calming Ukraine tensions — for now

    In a surprise accord, Ukraine and Russia agreed Thursday on tentative steps to halt violence and calm tensions along their shared border after more than a month of Cold War-style military posturing triggered by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

    April 18, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads