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We are getting close to the final stretch on health care reform, and the coming weeks may well be the acid test for the Missouri Democratic Congressional delegation. Who will stand up for Democratic principles, and who will cave to what is perceived to be political expediency?

As of today, one Missouri Democrat has already fallen by the wayside. Ike Skelton has announced that he will vote against health care reform legislation, and, in particular, against the public option. To justify this betrayal, he regurgitates a few lines from the same lame script Republicans have been using; he claims that the public option “could drive private insurers out of business,” adding that:

…he also is concerned that the House proposals could make large cuts to Medicare and hurt rural health care providers.

These objections are balderdash, and it is a sure bet that Skelton knows that fact very well.  Could it be that he is really worried because NRCC thinks he’s vulnerable and has targeted him with an ad claiming that he wants to cut $50 billion dollars from Medicare?  

Somebody should warn weak-kneed Missouri Democrats like Skelton that, no matter how abjectly they try to appear “moderate,” they may not be doing themselves much good in the long run. As Michael Tomasky convincingly argues, failing to enact health care reform is likely to hurt Democrats in red or purple states far more than those in blue states:

Imagine that Obama loses on healthcare. His approval rating sags to 42%. The Republicans stand to make gains in 2010. Where are they going to make them? Not in the navy-blue districts represented by the solons who are certainly going to vote for whatever plan emerges. They’re going to make their gains in the marginal, gettable districts and states.

That describes Missouri as far as I am concerned, and I would argue that the same factors will come into play even if a weak reform package is passed and the public comes to believe that more effective health care reform was sabotaged by corrupt and/or weak congress members. Skelton, like all the timid little Democrats cowering in fear that their constituents might discover that they stand for something, might well be shooting himself in the proverbial foot.