In mid-October, at the height of the government shutdown, House Democrats celebrated the decision of Omaha politician Pete Festersen to restart his candidacy against Republican Rep. Lee Terry—a move, they said, that showed the toll the weeks-long imbroglio had taken on Republicans. Festersen, who earlier has opted out of a campaign, cited the shutdown as a primary reason he was reentering the race.
As it happens, what goes around comes around.
Festersen said Monday that, for the second time, he was no longer running for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District seat. Although he cited family obligations, Republicans immediately jumped on the news as evidence that political fortunes had once again changed—this time thanks to the health care law’s disastrous rollout.
“This is the biggest and most humiliating recruitment fail of the year for House Democrats, and they don’t have anyone to blame but themselves,” said Andrea Bozek, a National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman. “Their continued commitment to Obamacare is not only costing them votes, it is now costing them their star candidates.”
The Affordable Care Act, plagued by malfunctioning websites and people losing their health care coverage, has been a major political problem for Democrats since the site debuted Oct. 1—so much so that the party’s once prodigious lead in the generic-ballot matchup has been reversed in a matter of months, as Charlie Cook observed last week.
Festersen’s decision to drop out doesn’t tangibly affect House Democrats’ efforts next year much. It’s only one seat among 435, and they can still find another candidate to take his place. Other Democratic recruits continue to line up to run in other battleground districts.
But national Democrats had touted the City Council member’s original reversal as a sign they had capitalized on the current political environment to make a lasting difference in House campaigns. Festersen’s decision Monday is the most tangible manifestation yet that Republicans are now doing the same.