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Election Watch

Patrick Morrisey says Joe Manchin won’t budge on Obamacare, ignoring bipartisan efforts

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As the general election for the seat held by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., heated up, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey took a shot in a radio interview with Breitbart, saying Manchin too often stands against President Donald Trump, who remains popular in the state.

Referring to Trump’s appointee to the Supreme Court, Morrisey said, “If Joe Manchin had his way, Judge (Neil) Gorsuch never would have been able to get a vote” in the Senate.

Morrisey went on to say, “Whether we’re talking judicial picks, whether we’re talking Trump tax cuts, whether we’re talking unwillingness to change the failed Obamacare … Joe Manchin has not stood with President Trump.”

Morrisey is right that Manchin voted against the tax bill supported by Trump and most Republicans. But he isn’t really right about Manchin’s positions on Gorsuch and modifying Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act.

We’ll look at the Obamacare assertion here; we separately fact-checked the part about Gorsuch in another item.

Bottom line: Despite voting against the major Obamacare overhaul that most Republicans supported, Manchin has been open to making incremental changes to the law.

Changing Obamacare

Manchin voted against the major Obamacare overhauls that most Republicans supported in 2017.

When the Senate took up three varieties of bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Manchin voted against all three bills, siding with all other Democrats. All three failed, due to Republican defections.

However, it is wrong to say that Manchin was unwilling to “change” the Affordable Care Act.

In January 2017, Manchin told West Virginia’s MetroNews radio that he had told Republican leaders that he’s “happy to sit down with you to see if we can find a pathway forward” on Obamacare, Politico reported.

Six months later, Manchin repeated that sentiment, telling MetroNews’ Talkline that he was still willing to work toward fixes for Obamacare, even as he objected to the Republican plan for a thorough overhaul.

“If they want to say, ‘Okay, Joe, we can’t pass this thing. Will you sit down and work with us?’ I’m there tonight with them and I’ll get six or seven or eight other very like-minded Democrats,” Manchin said.

Manchin then organized a bipartisan health care policy meeting.

Perhaps most important, Manchin was one of 24 original supporters — 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans — of a bill written by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., that was touted as a way to fix rather than scuttle Obamacare. The measure would have granted flexibility for states to allow a wider variety of insurance policies while temporarily continuing certain Obamacare payments that were at risk under a repeal. (It remains pending.)

Manchin also expressed public support for efforts by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to modify Obamacare short of repeal, which crystallized as S. 1835, which would allow states to apply for funding for a reinsurance program or high-risk pool program.

The Morrisey camp pointed to several votes, including a number of Republican attempts to either repeal Obamacare entirely or make sweeping changes to it. But Morrisey’s use of the word “change” suggests something more measured than those bills offered, so we won’t consider them as evidence of Morrisey’s claim.

Of the other votes Morrisey’s campaign cited, three concerned one narrow provision of the law: the “Cadillac” tax on high-cost health care plans. This provision has been controversial ever since the passage of the law, and the effective date has regularly been pushed back by Congress.

Manchin declined to push back the effective date on at least three occasions, sometimes alongside Republicans. On one such vote in December 2015, Manchin was joined by six other Democrats and three Republicans. On another vote that same month, Manchin was joined by 26 Republicans and six other Democrats or Democratic-aligned Independents. The third vote, in July 2017, was largely along party lines.

Morrisey’s campaign mentioned other Obamacare-related votes on taxes, including a 2013 amendment to repeal Obamacare tax increases that hit “middle-income Americans.” These included the tax penalty for not purchasing health insurance, the “Cadillac” tax, expense deductions and penalties for withdrawing funds from health savings accounts. This amendment failed on a party-line vote.

These comprise the strongest piece of evidence for Morrisey’s position, but they mostly involve relatively narrow tax provisions affecting how the law is funded.

It’s worth noting that Manchin has also pursued his own efforts to tweak the bill narrowly, such as exempting volunteer first responders from the tax for not having health insurance; to delay the individual mandate penalty; and to redefine who counts as a full-time employee under the law.

Our ruling

Morrisey said Manchin displayed an “unwillingness to change the failed Obamacare.”

Manchin did oppose the various Republican-led repeal efforts, but he has worked actively to promote incremental changes to Obamacare — not only rhetorically but also by backing bipartisan bills intended as efforts to modify Obamacare without scuttling it.

We rate the statement Half True.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Election Watch

Where the Vote Shifted in Kentucky from 2015 to 2019

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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, right, with his wife Glenna, speaks to supporters gathered at the republican party celebration event in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Photo: Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo

Andy Beshear’s lead in the Kentucky gubernatorial race came largely from cities and suburbs. But a shift toward the Democratic candidate occurred across the state, compared to the 2015 governor’s election.

This time, it really was the cities and suburbs.

The television maps of Kentucky’s vote Tuesday night appeared to show that a shift in rural areas was a decisive factor in Democrat Steve Beshear’s apparent victory in the governor’s race. And there was a movement in that direction, especially in parts of Eastern Kentucky.

But the areas that gave the Democrat a lead over incumbent Governor Matt Bevin were in the state’s major cities and close-in suburbs.

The map above shows the shift in the percent of people voting for Democrats from the 2015 governor’s race (won by Republican Bevin) to this week’s contest. Only 39 of Kentucky’s 120 counties were more Republican this week than four years earlier. Almost all counties were rural or exurban (the remotest suburbs) and they are concentrated in the western portion of the state.

The counties that moved most strongly toward the Democrats were central city counties of the major metro regions of the state and their suburbs (including those neighboring Cincinnati, Ohio). Of the seven counties where Democrats increased their share by 10 percentage points from 2015, five were attached to major metro areas.

There was a strong Democratic trend in a number of Eastern Kentucky counties. Magoffin, Knott and Perry counties (all once dependent on the coal industry) had some of the strongest Democratic shifts in the state.

But since the urban and suburban counties have much larger populations than rural counties, most of the surge in Democratic votes was tied to the cities. Democrats increased their total vote by 283,000 from 2015 to 2019. Nearly two-thirds of that increase (177,000 votes) came from the state’s major cities or suburbs.

In fact, nearly 40 percent of that increase came from just two counties, the central parts of Louisville (Jefferson County) and Lexington (Fayette County).

Explore an interactive map of Kentucky’s election results here.

The increase in voter turnout was massive in Kentucky, compared to 2015. The Democratic vote increased by 66 percent from 2015 to 2019. The Republican turnout increased by 37.7 percent – a huge gain but not enough to offset the Democratic surge.

The Democratic vote in downtown Lexington nearly doubled.

The Washington Post has a sophisticated analysis of the urban, suburban and rural shifts in Kentucky’s elections. It finds that the split between central cities and counties farther from city centers has widened since 2015.

The Yonder finds the same widening gap. For example, there was a 22.5 percentage point difference in the Democratic vote between Louisville (Jefferson County) and the state’s most rural counties in 2015. This week, the gap was 29.6 points.

Bill Bishop is a contributing editor and co-founder of the Daily Yonder.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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Election Watch

Election Results: Off-year Democratic Wins See Seed Change in KY, VA

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, along with lieutenant governor candidate Jacqueline Coleman, acknowledge supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Photo: Bryan Woolston/AP Photo

Heading into Tuesday’s off-year elections in a handful of Appalachian states– Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi notably among them– important races for governor and state legislative seats were being posited as an early referendum on the White House. 

President Trump spent the days leading up to the race rallying in Kentucky and Mississippi for Republican gubernatorial candidates in tight races, but avoided purple Virginia. But in the end, his support, or lack thereof, resulted in a mixed bag of results. 

In Kentucky, voters elected a new governor in a close race between the Republican incumbent Matt Bevin and Democrat Andy Beshear, the state’s attorney general. Beshear took the win with 49.2 percent of the votes. 

Mississippi picked a new governor as well. With the Republican Governor Phil Bryant out of the race due to term limits in his state, the current Republican lieutenant governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves run against the Democrat Jim Hood, a current attorney general of the state.

Reeves won decisively with 52.3 percent of the votes against Hood’s 46.5 percent. 

All of the seats in Virginia’s bi-camerral legislature were on the ballot Tuesday and for the first time in 20 years, the governing body will be led by Democrats. Democrats are projected to have 54 delegates out of 100 in the House and 21 senators out of 40. 

With the executive branch already in their hands, the results leave Democrats in complete control of the state.

The visible absence of the presidential support on the ground in Virginia could be a sign of the national Republican Party noticing a decline in suburban support for the current administration. 

It is a widely held Democratic belief that it’s in the suburbs of traditionally red or purple states where the Democrats have the best chance of stealing votes away from Republican candidates in 2020, including President Trump himself. 

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Election Watch

Early Presidential Primary States Have Stronger Job Growth

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From left, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro are introduced for the Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC on the campus of Texas Southern University Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in Houston. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay

While Democrat candidates criticize Trump on the economy, the states that hold their presidential nomination contests first (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) are doing better than the rest of nation with jobs.

Job growth in the first four Democratic primary states was far stronger than the national average over the last year, according to the latest federal reports.

Moreover, unemployment rates in these states were also at or well below that of the nation as a whole. And the good employment reports came from both urban and rural counties.

Democratic candidates have uniformly criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy. That message is being delivered in states that have had good job growth, and low unemployment rates, in the last year.

Credit: Daily Yonder graphic/Bureau of Labor Statistics

The first four Democratic primaries will be in Iowa (caucuses Feb. 3), New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (caucuses Feb. 22) and South Carolina (Feb. 29). The chart above shows the job growth in those states from July 2018 to July 2019. The figures are broken down between rural and urban counties.

The job growth rate in urban Iowa is more than three times that of the U.S. total. In rural Iowa, jobs have been growing at a little less than twice the national average. Des Moines has had the sixth fastest rate of job growth since last July of all U.S. metro counties at 5.3 percent.

The same is true across the first four Democratic primary states. Not one state has job growth rates lower than the national average. The closest is New Hampshire, which clocks in with job growth at just a bit above the national figures. Every other state has job growth rates at two to three times the national figures, in both rural and urban counties.

The only state of these four with a higher unemployment rate than the national average in July of this year is Nevada. It had a statewide unemployment rate of 4.5 percent compared to the national rate of 4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Iowa had an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent in July. South Carolina’s rate was 3.2 percent, and New Hampshire’s rate was 2.2 percent.

What does this do to the rhetoric coming from Democratic candidates – or its reception by voters? The Daily Yonder has no idea.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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