In the 2010 election, many Democrats lost their re-election campaign because of their support for health care reform. However, in 2012, Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch may defy that trend and become a rare Democrat to lose re-election because he opposed President Obama’s health care reform plan. Massachusetts will lose one seat in Congress due to the 2010 U.S. Census, and it seems the most likely redistricting scenario will be to pit Lynch in a district against freshman Democrat Bill Keating. Lynch voted against health care reform because he thought that it did not do enough to crack down on insurance companies — a position he was alone among Congressional opponents of the bill in holding.
Lynch has long been considered the “least liberal” member of the Massachusetts House delegation, a distinction that Lynch compared to being “the slowest Kenyan in the Boston Marathon.” (To Lynch, “it’s all relative” if not entirely all politically correct). However, with the exception of his vote on health care reform, Lynch has usually only steered from liberal orthodoxy on social issues, rather than economic ones. But Lynch’s opposition to health care reform, even if nominally from the left, already provoked one primary challenge in 2010 that Lynch won relatively handily.
However, unlike 2010, Lynch would not be facing off against a liberal protest candidate but against an incumbent Democrat congressman in Keating instead. This undermines the traditional strengths of an incumbent running for re-election, the ability to appeal to the advantages of seniority as well as the hesitancy of party regulars to ever back an insurgent. Further, Lynch has not exactly acquired the reputation of a politician that brings back federal money to his district as well.
If Lynch gets paired off against Keating, his peculiar dissent on health care reform would put a major target on his back for many Democratic primary voters. It also means that, despite being a five-term incumbent, he’s unlikely to find much succor among House Democratic leadership or the White House. Although Lynch’s opposition may have seemed expedient at the time, it will likely cost him next September. After all, every decennial redistricting process is a political maelstrom, and by being a fair-weather Democrat, Lynch has left himself all alone in the coming storm.