WASHINGTON - Listen carefully when Republicans say they can blame almost every House Democrat for the flaws of the health care overhaul. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., is the exception.
He's never voted in favor of President Barack Obama's signature health care law. It's a key reason the nine-term Democrat is still in Congress. It might be enough in 2014, although he barely won last year. In a district redrawn by Republicans for Republicans, McIntyre is the GOP's top Democratic target in the battle for control of the House.
Instead of Obama at the top of the ticket as he was in 2012, the state's marquee race next year is Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's battle for re-election.
This photo taken Dec. 11, shows Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., speaking with his chief of constituent services, Vivian Lipford, in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. McIntyre is the only member of his party in the House to vote consistently against President Barack Obama’s troubled health care law. But that might not be enough to help the North Carolina Democrat survive his reelection fight in 2014.
"And that's going to be all about Obamacare," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. "It's going to take a tremendous amount of money to go out and try to convince Republicans (that) any Democrat in Washington is helpful as it relates to eliminating the Affordable Care Act."
If Burr is right, then the political perils of "Obamacare" are so potent that there is no immunity for any lawmaker of the president's party, even for Democrats like McIntyre and recently, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who have voted for its repeal. Each man squeaked to re-election in 2012 by a few hundred votes.
Last week, Matheson announced he will not run for re-election. That leaves McIntyre as the only survivor among conservative House Democrats seeking re-election in 2014 who can say he told us so about the national health care law. His biggest problem may be that he remains a member of the president's party.
"In the South, Obamacare is not the only issue. They have very strong feelings about the president," said Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. "There are questions about his (Obama's) honesty and integrity...There's a growing antagonism toward the president. That's going to be the toughest thing for him (McIntyre) to escape."
Voters hold Obama in low regard in increasingly personal terms following the disastrous rollout of the web site for enrolling for insurance coverage. Democrats, even Obama's allies, have publicly said they'll deal more cautiously with him now. Americans view Obama similarly: A clear majority of adults, 56 percent, say "honest" does not describe Obama well, according to The Associated Press-GfK poll. That's worse than his 52 percent rating in an October poll.
Promising Americans they could keep their health insurance only to see 4.2 million policies canceled under the law may have reversed political gains Democrats thought they had made from the government shutdown, for which the nation largely blamed Republicans. Now, many Democrats see the 2014 election as less about gaining the 17 House seats the party needs to win the majority. It's more about not losing the seats they have.
McIntyre's is among the most vulnerable.
That's why the 57-year-old scion of a prominent Lumberton, N.C., family is quick to list his conservative bona fides, starting with his opposition to the president's health care law. McIntyre, a lawyer, said his impression back in 2009 was that the law would place too much of a burden on doctors and hospitals. Recent layoffs at two area hospitals vindicate the position, he says.