On the menu today: how Elizabeth Warren’s claim of Native heritage drove her to an awkward flip-flop on a little-noticed policy issue; a new series of surveys suggests Medicare for All is a serious liability in those key swing states; the endgame in Iowa approaches, with one candidate almost entirely forgotten; and a key voice on Wall Street makes a clear and bold prediction about the upcoming presidential election.
Elizabeth Warren’s Big Flip-Flop on Native-American Gambling
On page 80 of Elizabeth Warren’s 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap, she made a brief reference to gambling and its role in contributing to the rising rate of Americans filing for bankruptcy:
If the bankruptcy system isn’t packed with frauds and cheats, then why are so many families in trouble?” With a million and a half families declaring bankruptcy each year, one might expect innumerable explanations for all that financial mayhem. During our interviews we heard a wide variety of reasons. Some were victims of crime, some had made bad investments, some had problems with alcohol or gambling and some had lost their homes in a flood or earthquake… Nearly nine out of ten families with children cite just three reasons for their bankruptcies: job loss, family breakup and medical problems.
Back in 2014, as a senator, Warren expressed opposition to a previously passed Massachusetts law that expanded legal gambling, and expressed support for a referendum that aimed to strictly limited what was allowed in the state, “You have to remember, I come to the question of gambling from a background in bankruptcy and what happens economically to families. It’s a tough call to make. People need jobs, but gambling can also be a real problem, economically, for a lot of people. I didn’t support gambling the first time around and I don’t expect to support it.”
For quite a long while, Warren was a vocal skeptic, if not an outright staunch opponent, of legal gambling. (That happens to align with what I think!) And then she got in hot water over her claims of Native-American heritage, and then she moved to help a tribe in her home state get the authority to use land the way it wishes, which just happens to include plans to build an elaborate new destination resort casino in Taunton, Mass.
For what it’s worth, Warren insists she’s not flip-flopping:
Warren told WMUR she has long opposed legalized gambling. But she also defended a bill she co-sponsored in 2018 that would have essentially overturned a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that blocked the Wampanoag tribe in her home state from pursuing a plan for a $1 billion casino.
Warren said Thursday, as she has in the past, that the bill had nothing to do with the casino.
“I sponsored a bill for the Wampanoags to have control over their own land,” Warren said, adding that Massachusetts state law, and not her bill, would allow the tribe to build a casino on the land.
“The question about the Wampanoags’ land is a powerfully important historical question,” Warren said. “And for the federal government to deny them control over this land and refuse to take this land into trust for the Wampanoag is something that is not only bad for that tribe, it is bad for tribal nations across the country.”
In Warren’s mind, all she’s supporting is a tribal sovereignty bill, a bill that just happens to give the green light to the big new casino they want to build.
In all likelihood, this is rival local interests — either wanting the casino, or Rhode Island casinos that don’t want competition — plugging their fight into preexisting political rivalries. (Would the plan to give the Wampanoags control over that land be as divisive if their development plans didn’t include a casino?) But for Warren, it’s a reminder of her implausible claims to Native ancestry and how her need to mitigate the damage from that decision created a parallel need to demonstrate that she could be tribes’ biggest friend in Washington. She really wants to mitigate the financial risks to working families . . . up until the moment doing so could really complicate her presidential ambitions.
Wowsers, Is Medicare for All Going to Be a Liability in the Upper Midwest!
One of the most fascinating stories of 2020 is how so many Democratic candidates convinced themselves that Medicare for All would be a big winner in the general election. The centrist think tank Third Way comes along today like the robot in Lost in Space, waving its arms and shouting to Democrats, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!”
Three new polls of likely general election voters in the Blue Wall states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin reveal that voters are deeply skeptical about Medicare for All and that the policy will not help Democrats beat Donald Trump in these top 2020 battleground states. These findings may explain why by margins of 19-points in Pennsylvania, 16-points in Michigan, and 17-points in Wisconsin, Democrats and persuadable voters would rather the Democratic nominee run on building off the Affordable Care Act over Medicare for All . . .
In no state does a Democrat who supports Medicare for All beat Donald Trump, losing by four in Michigan, by one in Pennsylvania, and tying in Wisconsin. But a Democrat who supports building off the ACA wins by six in Wisconsin, two in Pennsylvania, and is down by two in Michigan. Medicare for All is not the answer for persuading voters in 2020.
Perhaps a thick of layer of voter ignorance in starting to melt away. As recently as October, majorities of Americans had no idea how Medicare for All worked and more or less assumed it was like the current system but without the parts they didn’t like: “The same survey also revealed that a majority of Americans are still seriously misinformed about how Medicare for All would work. 55 percent of respondents believed that people who get insurance through their jobs would keep those plans, and the same percentage believed that people who bought their own insurance would keep those plans. A separate question found that 40 percent said they thought private insurance would still be the primary way that Americans would get coverage under Medicare for All. 54 percent said that individuals and employers would continue to pay health insurance premiums.”
Under the bill introduced by Bernie Sanders, and co-sponsored by Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, it is illegal for “a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this act” or “an employer to provide benefits for an employee, former employee, or the dependents of an employee or former employee that duplicate the benefits provided under this act.”
The Democratic Primary’s Forgotten Man — I Mean, Really Forgotten
This move by Joe Biden and other candidates is a just smart tactic, operating under caucus rules where if your candidate doesn’t get above 15 percent, you have to choose somebody else or go home:
Joe Biden and other leading candidates are actively courting lower-polling campaigns in the final days before the Iowa caucuses, hoping to forge election night alliances designed to pick up the supporters of candidates who fail to move past the first ballot.
Biden’s campaign has approached at least two rival primary campaigns, seeking to broker agreements ahead of the Monday night’s caucuses, according to sources familiar with his overtures. And an aide to Tom Steyer said Wednesday that his campaign had been approached by “multiple candidates.”
This could be a big deal for Warren (right around or above that 15 percent threshold) and Amy Klobuchar, who’s finished with 13 percent, 11 percent, and 10 percent in the last three polls. Fans of Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Tulsi Gabbard won’t see their candidate get delegates, but they can decide whether Warren and Klobuchar have a good enough night or a bad defeat.
But in a primary process that has served up heaping portions of humiliation for a lot of once-promising rising stars in the Democratic party, this sentence ranks high among all of the indicators of long-lost dignity: “Former Rep. John Delaney, a non-factor in public polling in Iowa despite campaigning tirelessly there since 2017, said Wednesday that he was not aware of outreach to his campaign from any other competitor.”
This poor guy. He’s got so little support no one’s even remembering to ask for his endorsement.
ADDENDA: Our old friend James Pethokoukis shares this anecdote from Goldman Sachs: “A whopping 80-90 percent of participants at our client conferences thought that President Trump would win reelection in November.”