Dear Senator Lincoln:
As you know, yesterday you were among a small group of Democrats who voted against including a public option in the bill you will report out of the Finance Committee. As you also know, earlier this year, you went on record supporting a public option, only to reverse your position in the wake of the ugliness of August, and of your deteriorating popularity in Arkansas.
New polling from Rasmussen shows you trailing all four of your potential Republican opponents, despite their general lack of name identification. As someone who has worked on Democratic campaigns, I can understand how troubling that kind of polling data can be.
I am not writing to ask you to ignore political considerations when approaching votes. I know there are plenty who would expect that of you, but I recognize the realities of your position, and the need to consider the political ramifications of your decisions.
What troubles me is not that you are considering politics. It's that you're drawing the wrong conclusion.
During your 2010 campaign, you are going to be accused of voting for a socialist government takeover of health care, regardless of whether or not you support the public option. The Republican party has been willing, throughout this debate, to use lie after lie to further their cause. What makes you think they will be fair and honest during the campaign they are about to run against you?
Republicans on the Finance Committee have already shown you that they don't need a public option as part of the bill in order to make the case that you favor a government takeover. Just last week, Senator Kyl made the argument that because the bill included detailed insurance regulations, it was an anti-capitalist, big government intrusion into health care.
That the fringe has so eagerly made its way to the forefront of the Republican party means that it will only get worse when your campaign actually begins. I know that sounds daunting, and it may be. But it should also be liberating.
Senator, there is almost nothing you can do to change the attacks that are about to be lobbed your way. A lot of your colleagues face a similar situation, and are understandably nervous, as you are. I know you are in a tough state and that your reelection is going to be an uphill battle, but don't think for a second that actions you take during the next 14 months are going to prevent your opposition from launching their most vicious attacks at you, regardless of truth.
That frees you to vote your conscience. If they are going to hit you on health reform regardless of how you are going to vote on the public option, then vote for it. The next time you have a chance, and I expect you will on the Senate floor, vote for the public option. If you'll be attacked either way, then there is no reason not to support it. I know it's what you want to do. You signaled it was your initial intention, and I know you are intelligent and capable, that behind the scenes you must understand that the public option will do more to control costs than any other solution on the table. I know you know that. I know you want to vote for it.
So do it. Don't let the fear of Republican attacks convince you that you can do anything to prevent them. The public option is good policy, and despite what you think, voting for it is not bad politics.
Best of luck,
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