That’s the headline on a Newsweek report that attempts to explain why Sen. Blanche Lincoln is such a reluctant vote on health care legislation while representing a state with such enormous needs and, polls show, an electorate favorably disposed toward government intervention depending on how you frame the question.
UA pollster Janine Parry says something I’ve said. It could be that Lincoln truly is intellectually conflicted on the issue, not merely a captive of special interests or a political coward.
“Isn’t it possible that she’s not being risk-averse, but that she actually really just has strongly conflicted views about the issue?” asks Parry. Perhaps Lincoln’s position accurately mirrors that the ambivalence of many Arkansans, whom Parry says want to do something about health care but just aren’t sure whether the current plan is the right path to head down. “We’re confused about how to proceed,” she says. “You can make the case that she is representing Arkansans in an intellectually honest way.” But holding out on even the procedural vote to allow debate to begin indicates she’s acting strategically too. She knows that her potential opponents are already fundraising and, smartly, she’s reluctant to, as Parry puts it, hand them a bat and ask them to bludgeon her with it.
The problem — and the cerebral Barack Obama suffers politically for this, too — is that however ambivalent voters might be on an issue, they respond to decisive politicians with firm convictions who study less and act more. George W. Bush proves the downside of this school of leadership, of course.