The ACA and Partisanship: Offensive Strategies in 2014 Races

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Democrats and Republicans are taking a page from To Kill A Mockingbird, finding the best defense they have is a spirited offense. Both sides of the aisle this week began doubling down on messages that will be hammered home to constituents in 2014. Ads are already up and running. The National Republican Congressional Committee has radio spots explicitly tying Democratic Representatives: Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), and Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), to Obamacare.

Americans for Prosperity, a political organization connected to the Koch brothers, released an ad targeting North Carolina Democratic Senator, Kay Hagan. In thirty seconds, the ad alleges that Hagan has been “taking care of Washington insiders,” while ignoring the needs of North Carolinian families. At the end appears the hashtag “ExemptMeToo,” referring to the recent exemptions and extensions given by the Administration for dates and requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

The Democratic leadership is sending signals that Democrats need to welcome these attacks, and stand up for the law. In a speech about economic mobility on December 4, President Obama remained confident that regardless of what happened with the rollout of the law, and website, things would turn around.

“More people without insurance have gained insurance — more than 3 million young Americans who have been able to stay on their parents’ plan, the more than half a million Americans and counting who are poised to get covered starting on January 1, some for the very first time,” Obama said, “And it is these numbers — not the ones in any poll — that will ultimately determine the fate of this law.” The celebrity-endorsed side of this strategy started Thursday with actors, musicians, and other public figures tweeting a message with “#GetCovered” part of the “Tell A Friend–Get Covered” campaign. The effort is meant to raise awareness and boost the popularity of the law.

Supporting the law, and trying to win re-election, places some Democrats in a tough position. Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) recent ad on Obamacare shows Landrieu is attempting to force President Obama to keep his promise about being able to keep current insurance coverage. She is fixing a troubled aspect, but still in favor of the ACA. However, Landrieu’s rating in Louisiana has taken a tumble in recent months. In April, 55.9 percent of her constituents were willing to rate her as doing an “excellent,” or “very good” job.

Last week, a poll asked the same question, to which 46.3 percent gave their support. Another ad for the Louisiana Senate race, sponsored by Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, portrays Landrieu’s opponent, Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-La.), as “part of the problem” in Washington, and wrong for the U.S. Senate. It does not mention healthcare. Other Democrats are less willing to run explicitly on Obamacare as well, focusing instead on Washington partisanship. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a series of “Jump Start Candidates.” A program started earlier in year to provide “early financial, communications, operational, and strategic support to help top-tier candidates” who are challenging incumbent Republicans.

 ”Voters are fed up with the partisan ideology and obstructionism of this Republican Congress, and these candidates will offer the antidote,” the letter explaining the program said. Republicans are seizing this message as well. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) speaking on the house floor, discussed how Republicans in Congress need to unite, and win elections.

“We’ve been at each other’s throats for a long time. Elections have consequences Mr. Speaker, and I fundamentally believe, this is just my personal opinion, I know it’s a slightly partisan thing to say, to really do what we think needs to be done, we’re going to have to win some elections. And in the mean time, let’s try and make this divided government work.”

Ryan added that, “Our constituents are expecting a little more from us,” talking about balancing budgets and looking out for their interests. As the election draws nearer, and focus shifts ever so slightly from enrollment problems, Democrats and Republicans are taking the offensive line on all issues, including healthcare.

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