Poll: Montana Dems pan Baucus on healthcare

Fifty-five percent of Democrats in Montana disapprove of how Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has handled healthcare reform, according to a new Research 2000 poll given to The Hill by a liberal activist.

Liberal advocacy groups and labor unions have been running television ads and running grassroots operations in Montana this summer targeting Baucus and criticizing his tepid support for a government-run health insurance program.

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It appears the campaign has begun to impact Baucus’s public standing.

A majority of Montana Democrats disapprove of Baucus’s actions on healthcare reform while only 34 percent of Democrats approve, according to the poll, which was conducted from Aug. 17 to Aug. 19. The poll was commissioned by Daily Kos, an influential liberal website, according to the source.

Overall 42 percent of Democratic, Republican and independent voters approve of Baucus on healthcare reform while 44 percent disapprove. Nearly half of Montana Republicans polled, 49 percent, approve of Baucus’s role in healthcare talks.

More than a third of Democrats polled said they would be less likely to vote for Baucus if he opposed a public health insurance option while 52 percent said their vote would not be affected. About one in 10 said they would be more likely to support Baucus if he opposed a public option.

Twenty-three percent of Republicans in the state said they would be more likely to vote for Baucus if he opposed the public option while nearly 70 percent said their vote would not be affected.

Nevertheless, Baucus’s poor healthcare ratings have had limited impact on his overall standing. Fifty percent of Montanans surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of Baucus while 42 percent reported an unfavorable opinion. Nearly 70 percent of Democrats said they had a favorable overall opinion of him.

Baucus is up for re-election in 2014.

“Senator Baucus has been crisscrossing the state talking with Montanans about health care -- and it's clear that people want meaningful reform," Baucus’ spokesman Ty Matsdorf said. "That's why Senator Baucus is focused on crafting legislation that will lower costs, improve quality and get 60 votes in the U.S. Senate."

Baucus has come under heavy pressure in recent months from advocates who support the public option.

Democracy for America and Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched a TV ad last month targeting Baucus.

The spot showed two doors on either side of the phrase “public health insurance option.”

Behind door No. 1 was a list of names of Montanans who signed a petition expressing support for a public plan as well as the results of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found 76 percent of Americans favored a public health insurance option.

Behind the ad’s door No. 2 was a list of contributions Baucus has accepted from the healthcare industry, including $1.2 million from the insurance industry and $740,000 from the pharmaceutical industry.

The Research 2000 poll surveyed 600 voters, about a third Democrats, a third Republicans and a third independents.

This story was updated at 6:15 p.m.