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Echoes Of A 1991 [’94] Healthcare Upset

From a history challenged Politico:

Echoes of 1991 health care upset

By: Alex Isenstadt
January 17, 2010

The uncertainty surrounding the suddenly-too-close-to-call Massachusetts Senate special election, as well as its high stakes, has political handicappers and strategists wondering if maybe they’ve seen this one before — in 1991, when long-shot Democrat Harris Wofford seized on the health care issue to pull off a shocking Pennsylvania special election victory that sent tremors across the political landscape.

It’s hard not to notice the similarities between the 1991 Senate special election and the current Massachusetts Senate contest.

Much like Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Wofford, a little-known Democrat who had been appointed to the late Republican Sen. John Heinz’s seat, began the race as a distinct underdog, and few expected he would be able to overcome former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who left his post as U.S. attorney general to run for the seat.

Yet Wofford managed to erase a yawning deficit in the polls, in part for the same reason Massachusetts observers say Brown has been able to climb into contention — Thornburgh, like Democrat Martha Coakley in the race for the late Ted Kennedy’s seat, appeared to take his opponent for granted and ran a similarly lethargic campaign…

The parallels extend further. Like Brown, who has waged a campaign against what he calls the Washington status quo and ran a TV ad featuring him driving in a pickup truck while intoning that it’s “time that we end business as usual in Washington,” Wofford promised to shake up the establishment — and cast Thornburgh as an insider.

More important, both Brown and Wofford caught lightning in a bottle on the health care issue and, despite being on opposite ends of the issue, utilized it as a core campaign theme. Brown has even upped the ante, thanks to the urgency of the moment — he has framed himself as the GOP’s 41st vote and the last obstacle to Democrats passing a health care overhaul.

“There’s no question that with something as fundamental as health care reform — whether you think about it positively or negatively — in a special election there is a chance to send a message,” Wofford told POLITICO this week…

Lest we forget, there are a few details that the Politico left out.

After Pennsylvania’s senior Senator John Heinz died, Governor Bob Casey appointed Mr. Wofford to that seat. So Wofford was running, to an extent, as the incumbent.

Also, besides ‘healthcare,’ a major theme of Wofford’s (Carville and Begala run) campaign was the economy – which was still undergoing a mild recession at the time.

But far more importantly, we should also remember that Mr. Wofford was soon un-elected a short three years later, along with many other vocal ‘healthcare reform’ supporters, once the voters got to know what such ‘reform’ actually entailed.

Mr. Wofford lost to Republican Congressman Rick Santorum, who was 32 years his junior and a relative unknown. But Mr. Santorum was vehemently opposed to Hillarycare.

And that is the real lesson we should take from Mr. Wofford’s brief career in the Senate, and hopefully the real parallel that will hold true tomorrow.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, January 18th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Echoes Of A 1991 [’94] Healthcare Upset”

  1. proreason says:

    “political handicappers and strategists wondering if maybe they’ve seen this one before ”

    they have.

    In Virginia and New Jersey.

    And those situations really are the same.

    Even the campaign strategies of the Republican challengers are similar.

    Stop the economic destruction. Lower taxes. Stop the Health Scare. Stop the anti-business mania. Believe in America. Understand and address the issues of your state. Be high-spirited with upbeat campaigning. Avoid negative campaigning about personalities. Don’t allow yourself to be baited. Show integrity. Ignore Obama.

  2. Liberals Demise says:

    What we have jammed in our face now is as bad if not worse than the Clintonista Social Med program.

    Come Wednesday………I will proudly thumb my nose at the Obama Open Sore on Harry and Nancys face!!

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