Republican Nevada Sen. Dean Heller was the first “moderate” GOP senator to announce his opposition to his caucus’ Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace plan. His opposition made sense: He represents a purple state (Hillary Clinton won it in 2016) which expanded its Medicaid program via the ACA in 2014. Many of Heller’s constituents would have lost coverage under the repeal bills favored by most GOP legislators. And he has to run for reelection in 2018.
But then ol’ Heller (get it? Like Old Yeller? Whatever, it’s Friday) changed his mind! After being seated next to/heckled by Donald Trump at a high-profile White House lunch (see above), Heller went on to vote “yes” on the “skinny repeal” bill that Senate leaders were trying to to push through. While that bill wouldn’t have cut Medicaid per se, it eliminated Planned Parenthood funding and would’ve likely triggered large premium increases; passing it also would’ve put Senate Republicans over a barrel in “conference committee” negotiations with House Republicans who strongly favored Medicaid cuts.
The skinny repeal bill, of course, failed. So now Heller is on the record having voted for a damaging bill backed by an unpopular president, which will hurt him with independent voters and whatever Democrats were considering crossing the aisle for him. But he also went on the record opposing the bill early in its existence, which likely annoyed loyal Republicans. It’s a lose-lose, and Heller’s updated approval ratings reflect as much:
A poll released Tuesday by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling (PPP), which was sponsored by the pro-Obamacare group Save My Care, found that only 22 percent of Nevada voters approve of Heller’s job performance, compared with 55 percent who disapprove and 23 percent who are unsure.
As mentioned, PPP’s results lean Democrat-friendly, but the group had Heller’s approval at 35 percent in June—he’s losing ground no matter which way you slice it. (And according to the Morning Consult poll, Heller had the fourth-lowest approval rating of any Senator in the country even before his health care flip.)
But here’s the good news: Money! From the Nevada Independent:
Fresh off Sen. Dean Heller’s vote for the so-called skinny Obamacare repeal, a SuperPAC linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it will spend seven figures to defend him — including fending off any primary challenge. “We were Senator Heller’s biggest independent supporter in 2012 and we expect to be in 2018,” said Steven Law, McConnell’s former chief of staff who now oversees the Senate Leadership Fund.
Dean Heller is going to win re-election.