Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is the rare Republican to implement Medicaid expansion and opt for a state-based exchange. But the online marketplace has been such a mess that it drew a class-action lawsuit from residents who believed they signed up for coverage and now are saddled with medical bills because they weren't actually enrolled. The state plans to switch to the federal website for 2015 enrollments.
“It has been an unmitigated disaster,” said Jon Ralston, a veteran observer of Nevada politics. But Sandoval is expected to cruise to re-election this year. That's in part because his approval ratings have typically registered above 60%. But Ralston also points out that Democrats have been “singularly inept” in fielding a credible candidate despite Nevada's politically purple hue.
As the first Latino governor of Nevada, Sandoval has frequently been touted as a potential national candidate. His name has surfaced in discussions of possible 2016 vice presidential nominees. That's where the failed Silver State Health Insurance Exchange could hurt. Republican activists, in particular, are unlikely to look kindly on Sandoval's ill-fated embrace of Obamacare. “There will not be any fallout for him in the state,” Ralston said. “The question is whether it will affect his long-term prospects as a national candidate, and I don't think we know that yet.”
In Maryland, Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown hoped to capitalize on his role in shepherding implementation of the state's insurance exchange to advance to the state's top elective office. Popular two-term Democratic incumbent Martin O'Malley isn't running for re-election and is exploring a presidential bid.
But Brown's role in the development of the online marketplace, now undergoing an expensive overhaul using software from Connecticut's successful exchange, has instead become a political albatross. Brown's chief challenger for the Democratic nomination, Attorney General Doug Gansler, has repeatedly cited the dysfunctional website as evidence that Brown isn't up to the task of running the state, noted Todd Eberly, an assistant professor of political science at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
But there's little evidence that the attack has significantly imperiled Brown's chances of winning the primary in a state dominated by Democrats. An April poll conducted by St. Mary's College found Brown with support from 27.1% of respondents. That was down significantly from previous polls, but still way ahead of Gansler at 10.8%. A third credible challenger, state Del. Heather Mizeur, was at 7.7%.
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