WASHINGTON - Already, polls are showing growing support for the law President Obama signed Tuesday. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted a day after the vote found that a slim margin of Americans support the law.
Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick, who was elected in 2008, faces a far more difficult re-election campaign this year than six-term Republican Mike Simpson. Minnick has already seen attacks from some liberals for voting Sunday against the health bill that his party championed.
This week, two liberal bloggers published a report on Minnick's time in the Nixon White House, when he was still a Republican. Their report came "as a result of Congressman Walt Minnick's vote on health care reform legislation and from the opinion that his self-serving leadership is not beneficial to Idaho Democrats," wrote blogger Tara Rowe and her co-author, an anonymous writer whose blog is named the Mountain Goat Report.
"We have a Democrat in office that doesn't represent Democratic views," said Rowe, who lives in Pocatello, which is not in Minnick's district. "A lot of people are frustrated. He's kind of the de facto leader, and he has no interest in making Democrats or the Democratic Partysomething Idahoans can embrace."
But Minnick says there's plenty of room for disagreement within his district, and no one will be "100 percent satisfied with the way every public official votes."
"I think on balance most in the party will conclude that I'm better than the alternative in November," he said. "Elections are between two people in our two-party system. It's not a question of who's perfect. It's a question of who on balance better represents your views."
Simpson, who faces three Republicans in the May primary election, doesn't think he'll face a backlash. As in Minnick's 1st District, the prevailing view of Simpson's constituents in the 2nd District was against the bill.
The 1st District covers western Idaho from Canada to Nevada, including Canyon County and part of Ada County generally west of Cole Road. The 2nd District covers the rest of Idaho.
"Judging by the mail I've received, it's overwhelmingly opposed" to health care, Simpson said.
That suggests he's unlikely to suffer for appearing in a photo holding up a sign that urged on the tea party protesters at the Capitol over the weekend. Simpson, one of four congressmen on the balcony, held up one of three signs that said, "Kill the bill."
He said he and the others were sitting on the balcony while the protesters were chanting, and they didn't want to be identified as Democrats. So one of his colleagues drew the signs, and they held them up, "so they knew we were on their side," Simpson said. "We were just having fun."
It's too soon to tell whether health care will be a factor in November's elections, said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The committee does not expect to focus much money or energy trying to unseat Simpson. But it was heavily involved in the 2008 race that led Minnick to unseat Republican Bill Sali.
Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster and analyst of Western politics, said Minnick's district is populated with fiscally conservative voters who don't think much of Washington, D.C.
"They are under no conditions liberal," he said. "And the overall thrust of the administration going into health care, from the stimulus to the talk about regulatory reform, cap and trade, etc., was too much, too fast, too expensive."
That mirrors the thinking of the Republicans who hope to retake Minnick's seat. Their focus will not necessarily be each vote Minnick has taken, said Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Campaign Committee. Instead, it will focus on the effect of having Democrats run Congress - and the message that even if Minnick doesn't always vote as a Democrat, he is one.
Consider the message sent out after the health care vote by one of Minnick's five opponents in the May 25 GOP primary: Vaughn Ward, an Iraq War vet who has the backing of the NRCC's Young Guns program.
"Walter Minnick's party has done it again," Ward said. "He voted 'no' on the health care bill, he did nothing to work with Republicans to stop this unconstitutional bill from being forced on the people. Idahoans are frustrated and outraged that the guy they sent to Congress to protect us could not deliver, again."