There's some parallel dimension out there in which Kathleen Sebelius' tenure as HHS Secretary was an unalloyed success, the sort of thing that would propel her to victory in the Kansas Senate campaign that, according to The New York Times, she is currently considering. That dimension is not this one.
I made a joke last week about how Sebelius' last name had been amended to the more media-friendly and more accurate "Sebelius-Who-Oversaw-The-Botched-Obamacare-Rollout." Every story about her decision (using the word "her" somewhat loosely) to leave that position included somewhere in the first paragraph a mention of the complete debacle that was the Healthcare.gov launch. While the resignation wasn't immediately the result of that failure, it was obviously defining for most Americans. Kathleen Sebelius is the person who mulliganed the Obamacare rollout.
Once upon a time, Sebelius was the governor of the state of Kansas. In 2002, she beat her Republican opponent handily in a state that voted for George Bush for president by a wide margin two years prior. She was reelected by an even wider margin, leaving office in 2009 to work in the Obama administration. That's almost certainly why a challenge to incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts seems like a decent idea: She's won statewide office multiple times (including as insurance commissioner).
That is where the "maybe this is a good idea" thinking should halt. The graph at right shows the results of a Public Policy Polling poll putting Sebelius against Roberts in a head-to-head match-up; she trailed by 11 points. That's a substantial margin to overcome, particularly given that Kansas voters were already familiar with Sebelius.
And now the punchline: That poll is from February 2013 — before the Healthcare.gov debacle. PPP polled again in February of this year. Sebelius' favorable/unfavorable rating was 38/55. It's not clear how that would translate in a Roberts-Sebelius match-up, but those are not good numbers. Those are not Hey, I think I'll run for Senate numbers.
The necessary caveat: Weirder things have happened. Dead people have been elected to federal office. Prison inmates have been elected to federal office. And Roberts' primary campaign has been bumpy. But in a mid-term election year in which conservatives are expected to invest heavily in ads linking Democrats to Obamacare and in which Republicans will almost certainly turn out more heavily, the timing probably couldn't be worse for Sebelius to run.
But then: Sebelius' decision-making record is certainly worth some scrutiny.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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