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Obamacare Drags Dems Down

Perhaps even in Oregon.

Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Americans for Prosperity, another conservative group, is already acting on that assumption. The group kicked off the year with a significant $2.5 million TV ad buy in New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Louisiana, targeting incumbent Democratic senators Jeanne Shaheen, Kay Hagan, and Landrieu for their support of Obamacare. Each 30-second spot highlights the senator’s version of the “lie of the year”—if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it under Obamacare.

For example, the ad running in North Carolina opens with an interview with Sheila A. Salter, described as a self-employed woman from Chapel Hill. “I was shocked when I got the notice that my health care policy was canceled,” Salter says in her Carolina drawl. “Kay Hagan told us if you like your insurance plan and your doctors, you could keep them. That just wasn’t true. Now, I have a temporary policy that cost me 20 percent more. Next year under Obamacare, my costs go up another $4,500.”

Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips says Obamacare is a more “visceral” issue this year than it was in 2010, when conservative groups like his helped elect a Republican majority in the House over outrage at the law’s passage.

“The reason I think 2014 could be more difficult for liberals is the law has hurt a lot of people,” Phillips says.

Jennifer Duffy predicts the midterms will come down to a “battle of the anecdotes.” Republicans will highlight Americans who have lost their insurance, or are paying higher premiums, or aren’t able to see their old doctors, or are experiencing longer waits for medical services. Democrats, she adds, will try to counter with their own stories of previously uninsured Americans who are better off because of Obamacare.

But Democrats are conspicuously trying to change the subject. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said in a December interview there is “no greater challenge” to the country than income inequality. The mainstream media picked up on the cue.

“Income gap takes shape as a focus ahead of midterms,” read the front-page Washington Post headline on January 7, the same day Reid took up a vote to end debate on extending unemployment insurance. That came just days after President Obama argued publicly for raising the minimum wage.

Meanwhile, Reid’s political arm, Senate Majority PAC, has begun targeting GOP Senate candidates over last fall’s government shutdown. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana congressman challenging Landrieu, is “part of the problem” according to one ad because he “voted 16 times to shut down the government.” Another House member running for the Senate, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, was called “reckless” and “irresponsible” for his support of the shutdown. Another ad targets former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, who may run against Shaheen in New Hampshire, for being a friend to Wall Street and big banks.

Democrats’ best hope to shift the focus away from Obamacare may come from Republicans themselves. Duffy says that if the GOP nominates too many problematic Senate candidates who draw negative attention to themselves (think of Christine O’Donnell of Delaware in 2010 or Todd Akin of Missouri in 2012), the political heat of Obamacare could be tempered.

But don’t count on Jeff Merkley being able to distract voters from the effects of Obamacare, Monica Wehby says, if she is the Republican nominee. Says the pediatric surgeon and mother of four: “He can’t use the usual ‘war on women’ stuff.”

Michael Warren is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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