Was the Health Care Vote a Kiss of Death for Democrats?

Thirty four Democrats voted against the health care overhaul in 2010. By my count as of 2:30 PM today, we have midterm election results for 23 of them: 8 won reelection, and 15 lost. Republicans won 55 percent of the House, and 65 percent of the races against Democratic dissenters on health care.

Does this mean that voting against health care hurt Democrats? Not really. Most of the House Democrats who voted against health care already represented districts that were won by Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. What's more, about a third of the group that voted no in the first vote November were freshman representatives. Many voted no on health care because they faced a difficult reelection in a conservative district, no matter what.

We can't say that any one vote or law wiped out dozens of representatives during the Republicans' landslide victory. What we can say is that voting no on health care proved to be no panacea for the shrinking Democratic caucus in the House. The health care detractors did worse than the general caucus, but they did worse in tougher districts for Democrats.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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