Can ‘Medicare for All’ Carry Democrats at the Polls?
Health Care

Can ‘Medicare for All’ Carry Democrats at the Polls?

Bria Webb

The idea of “Medicare for all” has support from top Democrats considered likely 2020 presidential contenders, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. But Politico’s Paul Demko reports that progressives promising a single-payer health care system have failed to win over voters in some Democratic primaries in swing districts this year:

Democratic candidates who made that a centerpiece of their campaigns in key districts this year lost their primaries, in some cases getting clobbered by rivals who offered vaguer health care plans or backed a more incremental approach. Democratic primary voters in battleground districts in Iowa, Texas, Kansas and New York passed over candidates who emphatically supported single payer.

The key quote: “The problem is Medicare for all just isn’t one of those litmus tests for Democratic primary voters,” John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster, tells Politico. “Voters are smart enough to know that Medicare for all isn’t going to happen right now, or maybe ever.”

Why it matters: While progressives may Medicare for all as a potent rallying cry, and polls show voters increasingly support the notion of a government-funded system, it’s still not a lock that the party will coalesce around such a plan, and it’s not clear how strongly the idea will motivate moderate swing-state voters. Some Democratic strategists and losing candidates argue that support for a single-payer system wasn’t the deciding factor in the contests Politico highlights, but the results still indicate just how complicated it can be for the party to turn the polling advantage it now has on health care into election — or policy — wins.