Mark Warner Campaign Appears Unaware of Danger

Incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is currently characterized by Beltway observers as a relatively safe bet to win his race against his GOP opponent, Ed Gillespie — but the question isn’t whether this race will get close, the question is when Warner and his team will wake up to the possibility he can lose. With Warner topping out at about 46%-47% max in the ballot against Gillespie — and he and his campaign giving off a sluggish vibe — this is my bet for Senate race upset of the cycle.

As Warner has yet to be very active on the campaign trail, as of late he finds himself sucked into the state Obamacare debate in Richmond, where Governor McAuliffe has made Medicaid expansion his top legislative priority.

So not only is Warner saddled with supporting Obamacare at the federal level, he’s now involved in the state Medicaid expansion imbroglio — which will serve only to hinder his ability to advance the ostensible Warner brand attributes of moderation and bipartisanship.

Warner and apparatus are showing signs of rust, and while not yet noticeable in the manner and scope worthy of being reported upon, it soon will.

Gordon Hensley

CMS Medicare Pay Data Release A Transparency Milestone

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will today make available billions of dollars in Medicare payments to physicians — an unprecedented disclosure representing a new milestone in price transparency. Generally, the disclosure is being welcomed by researchers, consumer advocates, businesses and nonprofits seeking to increase access to the details needed to improve the U.S. health care system.

It’s “one step toward more transparency of truly meaningful data,” said Mark McClellan, a former administrator of CMS under President George W. Bush and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. (Source: Politico)

Last May, CMS released a trove of Medicare data on what hospitals charge for certain procedures. It sparked a wave of local and national media coverage that revealed sometimes enormous variation among providers in a community. But for hospitals as well as doctors, the amounts billed to insurers have little to do with what most consumers pay out of pocket.

The more provider payment info of this nature released for media and consumer scrutiny the better. Those against further disclosure are not putting the public interest first.

Gordon Hensley

Ongoing Obamacare Confusion a Persistent Problem

Among the many ominous developments surrounding the ongoing saga known as “Obamacare” is the fact millions of Americans still have no clue about how to get enrolled, the deadlines involved, and the ramifications for not signing up. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey last month found an astounding 6 in 10 Americans didn’t know that deadline for enrollment was 3/31/14.

The broader implication, as pointed out by Politico Pro reporting (paywall), is that many who will become sick — and then try to sign up — will blame the President when they find out they missed the deadline.

So after all the White House and congressional Democrats’ popping of champagne corks about the 7 million enrollment figure (objectively, a laudable achievement), the political risks surrounding the inevitable ongoing confusion, and the associated blame, are palpable.

Gordon Hensley

Marco Rubio Making Moves, Making News

Last year’s storyline on Marco Rubio? After a failed attempt on immigration reform, he’s washed up as a 2016 presidential contender. The new 2014 storyline? Rubio is resurrecting his presidential prospects with smart public relations activities on the foreign policy and economic front. Cyclical up and down news coverage is what it is: largely illusory to determining reality. But there’s no denying Rubio’s 2014 activities have been crisp, strategic and competently executed.

Last week, Rubio delivered an address at Google’s DC offices entitled “Sparking Dynamic Growth in 21st Century America” and staked out a sorely lacking aspect of GOP Senator-Rubiocongressional messaging: growing the economy, not just more austerity. The 24/7/365 austerity and budget cutting message is depressing, and Rubio appears to be moving out of that uninspiring construct. Smart move for the long term.

And besides investing heavily in his foreign policy messaging — conveniently coincidental to Putin’s Crimean muscle flexing — Rubio has addressed higher education reforms and the need to consolidate anti-poverty programs amid the discussion of income inequality.

The bottom line is that Rubio is doing what you’re supposed to do when you hit a political brick wall: change the subject, talk policy, make news, get people talking, and get back in the game. Immigration will be back for sure, but the lessons learned from his first unfortunate foray will help him better address the matter in the long term.

An impressive 2014 thus far for Marco Rubio.

Gordon Hensley

 

Pat Roberts’ Staff Fumbling Kansas Visit Issue

Pat Roberts of Kansas is an excellent U.S. Senator — but instead of his positive record and opposition to Obamacare driving press coverage, his staff has fumbled its way into a dangerous situation: first they said they would release information detailing his in-state schedule, and then abruptly changed their mind. The time a Senator spends in-state on behalf of those who elected him should be 100% transparent — and am just calling it like I see it.

Roberts spokesperson Sarah Little said earlier this week: “We’re not going to release numbers [about in-state visits] because we’re not sure that any number would be acceptable to some of these outside groups. … We’re worried about what the yardstick is. Who defines how much is enough days in the state?”

Who defines how much is enough? Voters do. Duh.

Pat Roberts deserves much better counsel and advice. If he doesn’t release what should be routine information about how and where he conducts his job in-state, this pr faux pas will continue to overshadow the exemplary record of a very personable incumbent.

Gordon Hensley

First RGA 2014 Ad Links Incumbent to Obama, Pelosi

The messaging of the first Republican Governors Association (RGA) ad of the 2014 cycle targeting Dem Gov. Mike Ross in Arkansas obviously serves as a template of what’s to come in a handful of races involving Dem candidates who are current or former members of Congress. And it’s a salient message.

The ad ties Ross to President Obama and Nancy Pelosi for his vote on the stimulus bill, and Democrats including Mike Michaud in Maine, Mark Schauer in Michigan and Allyson Schwartz in Pennsylvania will likely take similar incoming.

Schauer in Michigan, who has opted for public funding of his campaign, will find this line of attack from the GOP side especially troubling as he struggles with well-funded Rick Snyder — already on the air touting his accomplishments.

As National Journal points out, “In these races, the GOP will work to remind voters that Congress is far more unpopular than even some of the party’s weakest gubernatorial candidates.”

Gordon Hensley

Obamacare PR Disasters: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

With a preponderance of fresh non-partisan data showing North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan underwater in her job performance rating, and trailing several of the GOP primary candidates now vying for the opportunity to face her, the last thing she and her campaign needed to see is today’s new CBO finding: Obamacare could cause Americans to work fewer hours — enough to be the equivalent of 2 million fewer jobs in 2017.

So… CBO confirms the Affordable Care Act a job killer. The latest number, according to CBO, is nearly three times as high as the budget office’s previous prediction, and it’s supposed to rise in later years to the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs in 2024.

With so many successive Obamacare public relations disasters that seemingly roll out on a monthly conveyer belt, Hagan and her colleagues in AR, LA, AL (and an expanded 2014 Senate Dem defensive battlefield that now arguably extends in to MI), have little recourse except to prepare for another ad salvo.

Can feel their pain; have been there. Not fun.

Gordon Hensley

Scott Walker Meet-Up With Obama Sign Of Strength, Not Weakness

While his gubernatorial opponent Mary Burke will be “out of town” when President Obama hits Wisconsin today, Governor Scott Walker will greet him at the airport to discuss Wisconsin’s propane shortage, according to local news reports. Good move in the optics department.

scott walkerIt’s refreshing to see a high visibility conservative GOP governor and prospective 2016 GOP candidate demonstrate the simple courtesy of greeting the President when he arrives in-state.

Says Walker: “I’m the governor, so whether I agree or disagree with everything he’s done as president, it’s important for me on behalf of all the people of Wisconsin to officially greet the president, to thank him for his presence here.”

Good for him. This conveys strength — not weakness. Yet another reason to respect and like Scott Walker’s approach to governance.

Gordon Hensley

Michigan Gov Race Slipping Away From Democrats

For the very first time in months, the Democrats are showing signs of life in their effort to topple incumbent GOP Governor Rick Snyder. The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) is launching what it says as a three week, $1 million media buy to slam Snyder.

The two biggest problems, however, are that Democrat Mark Schauer is not just a former member of Congress, but that he will be accepting public financing — guaranteeing a massive spending disparity against the deep-pocketed Snyder.

Meanwhile, GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, the former two-term Secretary of State, has outraised Democratic Rep. Gary Peters. This sets up a very favorable contrast between the anti-DC team of Snyder and Land versus the Inside the Beltway team of Schauer and Peters. The DGA ad buy to help prop-up Schauer will help keep him on the radar, but one of the biggest surprises of 2014 may be a GOP win in both races.

Of course, it helps that President Obama is heading the ticket, and helps set up the anti-DC messaging construct.

Gordon Hensley

DCSpectator Interview With Politico’s Jake Sherman About Grateful Dead, Phish

Here’s a quick change of pace away from politics, health policy and public affairs topics: In my capacity as a Headcount board member, I proposed to management a periodic interview with members of the media and Democrat and GOP consultants who just happenjake sherman to be fans of the jamband scene — in particular, the Grateful Dead.

Knowing a slew of journalists and consultants from both parties who can’t get enough of this music, I rounded up Politico’s Jake Sherman for our first interview, which worked out extremely well. Jake knows his stuff — and here’s the interview.

Gordon Hensley