Thinking about the Republican primary state legislative results Tuesday, I’m reminded of that quote from Sun Tzu — the epigram about the “battle being won before it’s ever fought.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson cleverly won Tuesday night by choosing to endorse incumbents facing anti-Medicaid expansion primary opponents.
The bottom line: it’s very tough to oust an incumbent legislator, especially during a Presidential election where many voters are more focused on the Presidential race.
However, I’d caution against conservatives feeling too much despair about the results Tuesday.
You’ll notice Hutchinson stuck with pretty safe bets in endorsing seven incumbents for the 2016 primaries. The only non-incumbent Hutchinson endorsed was Chris Steplock, who was running against incumbent Rep. Josh MIller. Steplock didn’t come close to defeating Miller. Therefore, legislators shouldn’t worry about losing their seat to a primary challenger recruited and/or endorsed by Hutchinson, even if they vote against Medicaid expansion funding.
All in all, Hutchinson endorsed 6 incumbents and 5 won. That’s roughly equal to the success rate of legislative incumbents in the primary races generally. In other words, there’s a substantial question about whether Hutchinson’s endorsement made much of a difference at all.
What observers should definitely not take away from Tuesday night’s results is that it was a message from the voters that they agree with continuing funding for Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion under Hutchinson’s new euphemism, “Arkansas Works.”
If anything, the elections showed just how much unpopular it is in the Republican electorate once again.
Pro-Medicaid legislators preferred to put out bogus mailers and advertisements about how much they hate Obamacare. Hutchinson even held a press conference in support of pro-Medicaid expansion legislators and tried to “debunk” the link between Medicaid expansion and Obamacare.
We’ll get a look soon at just how much of a “mandate” Hutchinson and pro-Medicaid Expansion legislators got from voters in the next few months when the special session on Medicaid and the fiscal session begin. After all the campaigning ended, the bottom line is, on net, that Medicaid expansion lost 1 vote in the state House.
Considering Hutchinson has already floated the idea of passing Medicaid expansion funding without the constitutionally-required 75 percent supermajority needed, I think it’s safe to say he still has a lot of work to do to get the needed votes.