Sam Brownback’s biggest re-election problem? Barack Obama.
“Deep-red voters are so upset with the shenanigans of the Obama administration that some of them begin to see incumbents … like Brownback as the problem,” writes Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union.
Such logic always brings a smile. Are Kansas voters so dense they confuse a Democratic president with a Republican governor?
No. Voters here are smarter than that, Matt.
Obama has been linked, repeatedly, with Paul Davis, Brownback’s opponent. Davis was an Obama convention delegate, the ads tell us, proof of the Democrat’s perfidy.
All this Obamania can be pretty confusing. For Kansas voters who are still undecided about their choice for governor, though, it also can be a starting point for a focus on policy differences between Davis and Brownback.
Brownback and Republicans in the Legislature, for example, have fiercely resisted anything connected with the Affordable Care Act, which you may call Obamacare.
The state rejected an early grant to set up a health insurance purchasing exchange and declined to set one up on its own dime. It also has refused to expand Medicaid coverage to more of the poor.
Republicans have privatized Medicaid in the state, adding some people to the rolls but causing problems for some patients with disabilities.
All of these decisions are of a piece: In general, Republicans don’t believe government should play a significant role in providing health insurance coverage. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a former Brownback staffer, wants to cut Medicaid funding and turn the program over to the states for potential privatization.
Davis, by contrast, supports expanding Medicaid in Kansas — although he’s for it largely because it could help rural hospitals facing cuts in funding, not because expanding Medicaid would help the poor.
In general, Democrats believe government should play a significant role in providing health insurance coverage. Obamacare expands Medicaid, offers insurance subsidies to millions of people who make too much for that program and penalizes some businesses that don’t provide insurance for workers.
Resistance to expanding Medicaid in Kansas remains strong. The Legislature, which will stay Republican, believes expanding the program will cost too much.
If elected, Paul Davis would have to convince them otherwise. Sam Brownback, if re-elected, wouldn’t have any convincing to do.