ObamaCare referenda on state ballots can reap big returns

The Missouri GOP was very clever, placing on yesterday's ballot the question of whether the government can require citizens to buy health insurance. This was a straight yes or no vote on how voters feel about ObamaCare. The results? Overwhelming they rejected ObamaCare (71%-29%). The question is somewhat theoretical since the fate relies on the courts and perhaps a turnover in Congress and the presidency. But the fringe benefit was that it drove people to the polls -- where they showed support for Roy Blunt, now the GOP candidate for the Senate. He received nearly 410,000 votes; compared to his Democratic opponent, Robin Carnahan, who snagged 265,000 votes.

The referendum encouraged people to come to register their disapproval. The Democrats in Missouri knew this would happen and maneuvered to put it on this ballot and not on November's ballot -- since they don't want to motivate people to come to vote in November.

Time Magazine reports that the question will be on other states' ballots in November -- that is a good sign. I hope the GOP has been smart enough to try to get the question on every state ballot that is possible.

But the other fringe benefit is that it might benefit state Republican candidates -- and here is the big collateral benefit.

If the GOP takes control of various state legislatures and governorships, they can influence the drawing of Congressional districts -- an event that occurs every ten years after the census results are tabulated. Each state has separate provisions regarding how districts are drawn, but most of them place the power in the hands of whoever controls the state legislatures and the office of the governor. The GOP is planning on targeting state races expressly for this purpose. Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe writes:

The Republican Party, already hoping to take control of Congress, is undertaking an aggressive effort to seize control of governorships and state houses across the country, which in turn could help the GOP redraw congressional districts and exert more power over the next presidential campaign.

Democrats currently hold an edge in governorships and state legislatures, just as they control the US Senate and House. Midterm elections often provide a boost to the out-of-power party. But some analysts say that Republicans may get an extra boost this year due to a combination of grass-roots activism, continuing despair over the economy, and potential low turnout among dispirited Democrats.

Adding to the potential bonanza for Republicans is that this is also a US census year, meaning congressional districts across the nation will be redrawn based on the 2010 population statistics. The better the performance by Republicans at the local level, the more influence they will have in reshaping the political boundaries for the following election.

It is difficult to gauge how much more the Republicans will pump into legislative and gubernatorial races because the effort is spread throughout the country and is still in the early stages. But an example of the aggressive nature of the GOP strategy can be seen at the Republican State Leadership Committee. That group is running a project called REDSTATE, which has allocated $40 million aimed at winning state legislative races. That is nearly twice as much as the $22 million that the group spent in the last election cycle.

It is a cliché that  politicians choose their voters by using sophisticated computer models to draw Congressional districts. Since the Democrats engage in such practices so should Republicans; what is good for the donkey is good for the elephant.

Democrats currently hold a slight advantage in governorships (26 to 24); 37 states have governor's races -- almost evenly split right now between Democrats and Republicans. But 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats are not running for re-election, creating a vacuum that the GOP hopes it can fill. Democrats have a bigger advantage in state legislatures (Currently, 27 states have legislatures in which Democrats control both chambers; 14 host legislatures with GOP control of both houses; and in eight states, control is divided. (In Nebraska, the state legislature is unicameral and nonpartisan.) It might be a bit of an uphill contest but the rewards can last 10 years or more. I hope The Republican State Leadership Committee is also gearing up to place ObamaCare measures on the ballots to inspire big, anti-Democratic turnouts.