After ignoring the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Democrats have begun using it as a political weapon this election
Fresh from a victory at the Supreme Court two weeks ago, Democrats are shifting out of the defensive posture they took on health care reform since it passed in 2010 and are beginning to attack Republicans who want to repeal the law. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm of House Democrats, is launching a new set of ads hitting seven Republican lawmakers ahead of the House GOP’s scheduled vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday. Today’s DCCC campaign, which comes on the heels of an earlier round of ads targeting 10 Republicans last week, highlights a woman named Carla whose life was saved by a breast cancer screening and warns that Republicans want to repeal popular provisions of the law that could help her, such as free preventative health care screenings for women.
“Democrats continue to be on offense as House Republicans vote this week to protect the profits of their insurance company campaign donors instead of consumer protections for patients and lower prescription drug costs for seniors,” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, a Democratic Congressman from New York, said in a release.
The aggressive campaign from House Democrats on health care stands in stark contrast to their approach just two years ago, when Democrats were often reluctant to highlight Obamacare, and many even touted their opposition to it. “The difference between 2010 and 2012 is the difference between night and day,” a Democratic aide on the Hill told Salon. “In 2010, Democrats were trying to pass the health insurance reform bill but [were also] on defense defending it to the American people. In 2012, Democrats are on offense as Republicans do more of the same political games to protect insurance companies instead of creating jobs and protecting consumers.”
As the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza noted in September of 2010, summing up the conventional wisdom, “The evidence on the campaign trail seems to suggest that healthcare is more burden than boon to targeted Democrats this fall.” Politico reported that same month that not a single Democratic incumbent in the House or Senate had run a pro–health reform TV ad since April. The paper quoted one anonymous Democratic strategist as saying it would be “political malfeasance” to run such an ad. Democrats assumed the crouch posture almost immediately after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law that spring. Reuters noted a week after the signing, “While Obama made flying visits across the country to tout the new legislation, a number of key Democrats who led the charge for health care reform seemed to keep a low profile and are doing little to beat the drum.”
This was perhaps not surprising at the time, considering that polling on the law had remained stable for months and showed opposition consistently outpacing support by single digits. While much of this opposition was fueled by misinformation about the law, Democrats made little effort to shift public perception before Election Day and instead opted to hunker down. Dems had to defend a huge number of seats in moderate or Republican-leaning districts that they had won in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP clearly held the upper hand, given the dire state of the economy at the time. Democrats in tough races took one look at the polls and decided they should avoid talking about their ‘yea’ vote on health care whenever possible. Meanwhile, some conservative Dems who voted against the law went so far as to adopt the GOP stance. South Dakota’s Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards all ran ads touting their opposition to Obamacare and bashing the law using similar talking points as Republicans did.
So what changed? Herseth Sandlin, Bright and Edwards tell part of the story. All three of them lost. The election results dispatched with the notion that being a Democrat who opposed the law was a recipe for political success — of the 30 Dems who voted against the Affordable Care Act and then stood for reelection, 17 lost anyway. Their wipeout also means that there are simply fewer Democrats who voted against the law today than there were two years ago, which makes the party more united in its support of the law than ever before.
The Supreme Court’s ruling also certainly plays a role in affirming for good that the law is constitutional and providing a potent weapon for Democrats to use against Republicans still intent on repealing it.
“I think it is a smart move because the Supreme Court has ruled that the law is Constitutional and people want to move on from the past two years of political fights,” said Eddie Vale, the communications director for Protect Your Care, a progressive group defending the Affordable Care Act. “The situation is now flipped on the House Republicans, and any time they talk about repeal, we’re going to hit them for taking away people’s benefits that are popular, such as bringing back pre-existing conditions, throwing seniors back into the donut hole and kicking young adults off their [parents'] insurance.”
While the topline approve/disapprove polling averages may not have shifted much — the country remains evenly divided on the law — there is plenty of polling evidence to suggest positive movement for Democrats. According to a recent Kaiser poll, a plurality of Americans support the Supreme Court’s decision. More important, a clear majority — 56 percent — now say they think opponents of the law should give up and move on. Just 38 percent think Republicans should continue trying to block implementation of the law. A recent Bloomberg poll found that Americans strongly support most of the provisions in the law and that few want to repeal in its entirety when given the option of also expanding it or preserving certain provisions.
Bob Shrum, a Democratic strategist who worked for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign agreed Democrats’ embrace of the law is good politics, but wishes they had done it sooner. “Why didn’t it happen two years ago? I don’t know — it should have happened,” he told Salon. “I think from the beginning, we should have leaned more forward on health care and it’s smart to do it now.” Shrum noted that health care was a winning issue for Democrats long before misinformation about “death panels” sullied the picture, and he said he expects the political ripple effect of the law to only improve going forward.
More Related Stories
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Today, Obama defends his drones
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- Judge tells lesbian couple to separate -- or lose kids
- Obama to address drones, Guantánamo
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11