In the final week and a half before last Thursday’s special legislative session on Medicaid expansion, Gov. Maggie Hassan employed a new strategy for winning Republican votes. She traveled to the districts of the four Republican state senators she wanted to win over. But instead of meeting with them, she held media events to generate political pressure in the hope that they would give in and vote her way.
This is a familiar strategy to people who have paid attention to Washington politics for the last five years. It is precisely how President Obama operates. Like a wallflower dragged onto the dance floor, Hassan is copying Obama’s moves. If only they were good moves.
With unflagging confidence in his rhetorical prowess, Obama has spent the bulk of his legislative efforts since taking office traveling America and giving speeches on the home turf of members of Congress whose votes he wants. He does this specifically to avoid compromise. As he sees it, getting voters to pressure members of Congress into voting his way is a lot better (not to mention more fun) than actually negotiating with those members. Negotiation involves the risk of giving up something.
Hassan did do some negotiating with the Republican Senate. In the process, she gave some ground. As talks got tense closer to the vote, we can see the temptation to cut out and try to pressure the other side to give in.
But Hassan presented herself to voters in 2012 as the next John Lynch. She said she would be bipartisan and cooperative. Now she is trading in the Lynch model for the Obama model, which not only has a proven record of failure, but which is intentionally hyperpartisan, the very opposite of how Hassan said she would govern.
With Obama’s poll numbers cratering, one would think that no politician would want to copy him these days. Whatever could Hassan have been thinking?