Liberals rejoice! Vulnerable Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor has an ad that praises Obamacare. The media spot features his father, former governor and U.S. Senator for Arkansas David Pryor, detailing Mark’s struggle with cancer in the mid-1990s and how insurance companies didn’t want to pay for his care.
DAVID: When Mark was diagnosed with cancer, we thought we might lose him.
MARK: My family and my faith helped me through the rough times.
DAVID: But you know what? Mark’s insurance company didn’t want to pay for the treatment that ultimately saved his life.
MARK: No one should be fighting an insurance company while you’re fighting for your life. That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions.
In a previous post, I wrote that Republicans were shifting gears on how to attack Obamacare in political ads; they’re trying to put the focus on the law’s impact on jobs and the economy. Now, it seems Democrats are doing some strategic maneuvering as well on this issue (via Washington Post):
The [Pryor] spot represents an effort to shift the debate over the law away from the land of GOP talking points where it has resided so long — in this and so many other Senate races — and back to one of the fundamental moral imperatives driving health reform, i.e., protecting the sick and vulnerable from insurance industry abuse. Republicans have long sought to dominate in the anecdote war — stressing hyper-exaggerated horror stories about canceled plans and lost coverage — while refusing to acknowledge the existence of the law’s many beneficiaries. And Dems have been perhaps not engaged on this front forcefully enough, because in places where control of the Senate will be decided, pointing to the folks gaining coverage might not be compelling to the persuadable voters Obamacare has alienated.
Republicans will undoubtedly cast this as an acknowledgment that their attacks on Pryor over the law are working and could no longer be ignored. They’ll argue Pryor is, in desperation, using his faith and personal experience as a shield against those attacks. But this misses what’s really going on here. This ad is actually coming at a point where there are signs the anti-Obamacare fires are cooling somewhat. GOP advertising against the law has fallen off sharply, and is surprisingly low in Arkansas. The ad appears geared towards persuadable voters — particularly women — who, now that the Affordable Care Act is not quite the albatross it was a few months ago, might now be open to hearing the Democratic case for the law, straight from the candidate.
This is a gutsy move on Pryor’s part, but unlike what WaPo’s Greg Sargent says about Obamacare not being “quite the albatross” to Democrats; others say the law is still a huge problem for them (via Cook Political Report):
The ad came on the heels of reporting that the number of GOP ads attacking Obamacare has dropped off, leading some to speculate that the issue of Obamacare is no longer as toxic to Democrats as it once was. Has this issue finally run its course?
Short answer: No. Obamacare remains a liability to Democrats this fall. It remains widely unpopular in southern red states where control of the Senate will be determined. It may not be the issue this cycle, but it is still a top negative for Democrats. Plus, the more unpopular the President, the more politically toxic any issue associated with him or his administration. One Republican consultant told me he’s calling this the “O” election: it is defined by views of Obama. And among Republicans and independents, those views aren’t positive.
Republicans and their allies took to the airwaves early this cycle with ads that linked the unpopular law to Democratic candidates. In most places, that linkage has been accomplished. Once the link has been made, said one GOP strategist “you’ve gotten what you’re gonna get.” In other words, once a campaign has established that their opponent has supported Obamacare, the lines are now set and aren’t going to move with a higher volume of attacks. However, there’s life after the generic Obamacare attacks. Said that same GOP operative, “don’t leave Obamacare behind, build on it.”
Over at the National Interest, Walter Russell Mead blogged about the 33 customers suing Anthem Blue Cross for limiting their health care provider choices:
The Affordable Care Act has lately become more unpopular than ever, even though coverage has expanded (at least in name), and some states saw only average premium hikes. This lawsuit might point to a major reason why: Consumers don’t like to have their choices limited, especially as the result of having their plans cancelled.
As for the premium hikes, Forbes did a 3,137-county analysis and found that premiums went up by an average of 49% in the individual market. For women, premiums went up 82%. For men, there’s been a whopping 92% hike. Obamacare still sucks, but Americans know this. Now, Republicans need to “build” on it by opening a second front: how will they fix it? Again, there are plenty of conservative ideas out there.