Healthcare reform opponents claim win in Missouri primary vote

Opponents of the healthcare reform law are claiming their first victory after more than 71 percent of Missouri primary voters on Tuesday rejected a mandate that they buy insurance.

The result of the Missouri referendum is largely for show, since the nation's courts — not popular opinion — will decide whether the federal government can in fact impose such a mandate. But healthcare reform foes say the lopsided vote proves that opposition to the law remains strong, even as Democrats argue it's increasingly popular following their nonstop efforts to sell its benefits over the past four months.

Heritage Action for America, which is pressing lawmakers to sign onto a discharge petition that would force a House vote on repealing the healthcare reform law, immediately claimed the vote as a victory.

"Tonight, the people of Missouri sent a clear message to the liberal establishment in Washington," Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said in a statement Tuesday. "The federal government’s power is not limitless. It cannot compel individuals to buy a product or service. It is time our representatives in Washington read and understood our Constitution."

Needham also took the opportunity to pressure Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), a "no" vote on health reform, to sign the discharge petition.

The liberal grassroots organization Health Care for America Now immediately downplayed the results, claiming opponents of Prop C didn't really bother fighting its passage. HCAN argues that the referendum "focused only on a single provision" of the law.

"The Missouri vote was nothing more than a Republican straw poll," HCAN Executive Director Ethan Rome wrote in a blog post on the Huffington Post website. "It lacks any legal force, and it certainly wasn't about healthcare."

He continued: "If supporters of reform thought this referendum was about the new law, we would have run a campaign against it. But it wasn't, so we didn't."