Health care law not quite yet what the doctor ordered for Democrats

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Polls offer sobering view of midterms for Obama, Democrats
  • The importance of young voters
  • Another White House, Senate coordinated push — now on minimum wage
  • Boehner says there’s “no secret conspiracy” on immigration. Remember, he kids because he loves

Back to October: After the news of the 8 million health care sign-ups, Democrats last week were feeling a little better about their prospects for the midterm elections. Polls out this week remind them of reasons to worry. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday has less dire numbers than the ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday, showing President Barack Obama’s approval and health care ratings at six-month highs, but they still aren’t great for the president’s party. Mr. Obama’s approval is up three points to 44 percent and his favorability ratings are now a net-positive — 44 percent to 41 percent — for the first time since early October (before the health care website debacle). He appears to have put the skids on the potential slide into an approval rating in the 30s like George W. Bush suffered at this time in his presidency. The health care law remains a net-negative — 36 percent to 46 percent, which is actually a slight improvement from last month. Democrats are taking some solace in 48 percent saying the health law is either working well or needs minor modifications versus 49 percent who say it needs a major overhaul or should be eliminated. That’s up from 40 percent to 47 percent in December. The congressional ballot, however, shows Democrats and Republicans tied at 45 percent. As we pointed out Tuesday, Democrats generally have to do better than that to make gains in the House, especially because of the GOP tilt of the playing field. And among the voters with the highest interest in the midterms, Republicans lead by 15 points, 53 percent to 38 percent. Overall, “it’s like the difference between from being five runs down, to one or two,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who helps conduct the poll, told NBC’s Mark Murray.

The importance of young voters: Speaking of Democrats with lower interest in the election, a Harvard Millennials poll released Tuesday showed young voters’ interest lagging even behind 2010. That’s a big potential potential problem for Democrats, because young voters, like women and minority voters, are a key plank for them to win elections. And just like minority voters, young voters are less likely to turn out in midterms. For example, as a share of the electorate, voters age 18 to 29 were seven points lower in the 2010 midterms than the 2012 presidential election. And they voted less Democratic in 2010 than 2012.


Obama, Democrats coordinate minimum wage push: President Obama and congressional Democrats will team up Wednesday to call for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, part of the party’s broader push to highlight economic inequality ahead of the November election. The president is scheduled to address the issue from the White House at 3:10 p.m. ET, which will likely come after a Senate vote to advance a wage hike proposal. Like previous attempts, that effort is expected to fail due to GOP opposition. In advance of the president’s remarks, House Speaker John Boehner’s office is pushing back on Democratic claims about the economic benefits of a wage hike. They point to the Congressional Budget Office estimate that raising the minimum wage could cost the economy 500,000 jobs. Democrats, of course, will tout the same report, which also shows that 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty. By the way, Hawaii late Tuesday voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. And this will play in at least one key state — Arkansas, which will have a minimum wage increase on the ballot that incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor backs.

Immigration reform in 2014? Nevermind…: Less than a week after mocking fellow GOP lawmakers for their refusal to tackle immigration reform during a speech in Ohio, Speaker Boehner looked to clean up what he called a misunderstanding over his comments. At a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Boehner assured his colleagues there is no “secret conspiracy” to jam through an immigration plan this year. Boehner also told reporters that “some people misunderstood what I had to say,” and he again blamed the lack of trust in the president as the main obstacle to getting legislation passed. The comments would appear to take the wind out of the sails of those hoping to move forward with an overhaul this year. The odds were always long in an election year, but Boehner’s comments last week, combined with his earlier statement that he was “hell-bent” on passing reform this year and some GOP rank-and-file voicing support for action, made it seem like there was movement in that direction. Louisiana Rep. John Fleming told the NewsHour that Boehner “doubled down” on the party’s existing position, which is that Republicans would not move forward “until the president gets right with this.” But Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who is leading the GOP effort behind the scenes, said he thought most lawmakers wanted to fix the problem. After Tuesday’s public and private comments from Boehner, it’s hard to see that happening before November.

Quote of the day: “Today, 50 Cents is a singing group. Am I right about that?” — Sen. Barbara Boxer, on the Senate floor (not in da club), talking about earning $.50 per hour as a teenager during remarks Tuesday in support of raising the federal minimum wage

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1789, George Washington took office as the first U.S. president. How many people ran against Washington & what percentage of the vote did he receive?
Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. A belated congrats to Graham Morris (@GrahamHMorris) for guessing the right answer to Monday’s trivia question.


  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that Senate Democrats are working on a deal to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • Americans want the U.S. to play a less active role in the world — 47 percent said so in the latest NBC/WSJ poll.

  • 2016 watch: Hillary Clinton gets a 48 percent to 32 percent favorability rating in the NBC/WSJ poll. Jeb Bush is just 21 percent to 32 percent, and Rand Paul is 23 percent to 26 percent. As for the Koch Brothers, by the way, 49 percent either don’t know who they are or aren’t sure; another 20 percent are neutral.

  • The Wesleyan Media Project says that outside groups are accountable for 59 percent of ad buys for Senate campaigns so far this cycle. In North Carolina that number jumps to 90 percent.

  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor asked Rep. Vance McAllister to resign Tuesday. McAllister declined.

  • Ken Vogel reports on a liberal hush, hush Democratic big donor conference, the Democracy Alliance.

  • Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, running as a Democrat this time, holds his lead over Gov. Rick Scott 48 percent to 38 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie named a new Port Authority chairman Tuesday afternoon. John Degnan will replace David Samson, who resigned in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal.

  • After spending most of April in the Garden State, Christie is hitting the road for more RGA fundraising. Noteworthy stops: Iowa and South Carolina.

  • Wendy Davis’ campaign manager slammed Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, for not being more optimistic about the Texas Democrat’s gubernatorial campaign. “The uninformed opinions of a Washington, DC, desk jockey who’s never stepped foot in Texas couldn’t be less relevant to what’s actually happening on the ground,” Karin Johanson said in a statement. A Davis campaign spokesman later said Johanson was “referring to whoever at the DGA prepared the governor’s talking points.” Shumlin also made news in New Mexico for saying the DGA wouldn’t spend money there.

  • After botching the first of two executions planned for Tuesday night, Oklahoma temporarily stayed the execution of one death row inmate.

  • A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down the state’s voter ID law, saying it violates the Voting Rights Act and places an unnecessary burden on the poor and minorities. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states have a similar law to the one struck down in Wisconsin.

  • In a new report out from the Migration Policy Institute, the organization found that over the past five years at least 75 percent of immigrants deported through the Secure Communities program had been previously convicted of a crime; however, the report did not disclose the level of crimes committed.
  • Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will testify at the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration’s hearing on dark money Wednesday.

  • In a 6-2 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit cross-state pollution.

  • Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that children of illegal immigrants can qualify for in-state tuition under current law.

  • A Republican congressman from Virginia is leading a push to legalize medical marijuana.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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