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McCrory ‘Slapped’ Into The Briar Patch

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Last night the North Carolina State Senate voted to reject federal Obamacare money and the requisite expansion of Medicaid.

Before she left office, former Governor Bev Perdue (D) accepted $74 million from the feds to start setting up a “hybrid” state exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Now, Republicans overturned it.

Before they did, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) sent a letter to the Senate asking for a delay. The Senate did not wait.

As I watched the Twitter feed last night, I saw a narrative developing among Democrats, activists, and the state media.

First, I saw Travis Fain, the Political Reporter for the Greensboro News & Record, who asked on Twitter, “If the Senate passes S4 tonight, is there any way to argue that’s not telling the gov to shove it, right out the gate?”

Then came a similar statement from Chris Fitzsimons, Founder and Director of NC Policy Watch – a self-described “progressive public policy think tank.” He Tweeted, “Senate GOP majority slaps Gov McCrory, votes 31-17 to deny Medicaid expansion after he asks them to slow down.”

So, here’s the meme: Not only are the NC GOP members heartless and cruel by refusing to expand Medicaid and buy into Obamacare implementation, but the new Republican Governor is weak and ineffectual.

Of course, there is another way to look at this.

I’ve discussed it on the show a few times. Gov. McCrory is in a very good position. On any given issue he has three options:

1. Do nothing.  Allow the General Assembly to do its own thing and not comment about it. I’m thinking this approach might come in handy during debates on the social issues where, as Mayor of Charlotte, McCrory never showed a burning desire to weigh in.

2. Go along with the GOP majority in the Legislature.  Depending on the issue, he can share the glory or the blame. When it’s beneficial, he can play the populist – like on job creation efforts. Or he can reassure skeptical conservatives that he’s one of them – like on a Voter ID bill.

3. Oppose legislative leaders and veto measures the GOP passes. This option is made all the more appealing by the fact that the General Assembly has a veto-proof majority. Gov. McCrory can issue any veto he’d like and watch it get overturned. He can carve out a position as a center-right moderate and might even win praise for bucking his own party. Eight years from now, the national media might take note of his “mavericky” history.

I believe Option #3 is what the Governor is employing. Why? I saw him do it repeatedly as Mayor of Charlotte. For years he presided over a City Council that was comprised of a majority of Democrats. If a vote was close, he would try to peel one Councilmember away in order to prevent veto overrides. But in the later years, as Democrats took more seats on the Council, McCrory’s vetos became more symbolic.

Of course, McCrory will (and did) say that he vetoed things out of principle, and that might be true.

But the political results were the same – a focus on his arguments over the issue of his choosing. And he did it by using the veto - even when he knew it would get overridden.

But let’s assume he does not veto the legislation. By asking for a delay he carved out a nice spot for himself. He can tell folks, “Hey, I asked them for a delay. But they refused. I can count votes and they’ll override my veto anyway. So I might as well let it become law.” He comes off as a reasonable moderate.

So, politically, how does McCrory lose on this?

BONUS: Seven Reasons Why States Should Reject Medicaid by Dr. Merrill Matthews

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Pete Kaliner hosts the 3-6 p.m. drive-time slot on Asheville’s WWNC Radio. Visit his blog and listen live.

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