There’s little doubt that Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s decision to join the lawsuit challenging health insurance reform was purely political; like the other Republican AGs in the suit, McKenna was apparently pandering to the hard-right teabagger faction on which the GOP has recently pinned its electoral hopes.
But TPM takes a look at how this strategy has thus far worked out for AGs facing electoral challenges in 2010, and apparently, not so well:
Take a look at Tuesday’s primary in South Carolina, where Attorney General Henry McMaster boasted in his gubernatorial campaign that he was protecting “South Carolina’s sovereignty, “standing tall for states’ rights,” and opposing Obama on health care. McMaster came in third place with 17%, failing to make the GOP runoff.
And in Florida, state Attorney General Bill McCollum joined the lawsuits at a time when he was the presumptive Republican nominee for governor at time he joined the lawsuits. But no longer. He is now trailing in a new poll against self-financing former health care executive Rick Scott — who is touting his own opposition to the health care bill, and the activism he spearheaded during the debates.
In Michigan, state Attorney General Mike Cox is running for governor in a five-way Republican primary. And he has not broken out of the pack. The TPM Poll Average currently has him running in third place with 17.6%, behind Rep. Pete Hoekstra at 24.4% and businessman Rick Snyder with 18.5%.
And last but not least, look at Alabama Attorney General Troy King, who joined the lawsuits — he already lost his primary to Luther Strange, an attorney and the 2006 GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, by a margin of 60%-40%.
Not all the AGs in the case have found themselves on the losing side of the ballot. Pennsylvania AG Tom Corbett easily won his Republican primary for governor, but he was already the frontrunner before the lawsuit. And a bunch of other AGs remain unopposed in primaries for their reelection. But as we see above, those AGs in closely contested races haven’t found the health reform lawsuit to be the electoral bonanza they thought it would be.
Of course McKenna’s strategy may already have achieved its main objective; by striking first for the teabagger vote, he may have forced Dino Rossi out of the 2012 gubernatorial race and into an ill-advised run for the U.S. Senate. But so far there is little evidence to suggest that McKenna’s stunt will produce further electoral payoffs two years down the road, especially as the benefits of reform begin to kick in, and voters become loath to give them up.