When Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor made national news by rolling out a major ad campaign touting his vote for the health law, many Republicans — and some neutral analysts — rushed to declare that there’s no way the politics of Obamacare could be shifting even a little bit.
Now Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is out to prove the point, rolling out a new $2.5 million ad campaign that kicks off with a new anti-Obamacare ad responding to the Pryor spot. The idea is to prove that attacks on Obamacare are every bit as potent as ever. But the ad’s script neatly illustrates the real story when it comes to the politics of the law:
On TV, Mark Pryor talks about the health care law he helped pass. What Pryor doesn’t say is that law was Obamacare. Or that it cuts over $700 billion from our Medicare and will cut benefits seniors rely on. Obamacare meant threatened insurance plans, higher premiums, and broken promises.
The ad relies heavily on old attacks on the law that have either been debunked completely or have been left behind by the forward march of Obamacare implementation and enrollment that is underway in the real world. The claim about Obamacare cutting Medicare goes back literally years and has been getting dismantled by fact-checkers for just as long. The idea that the law “threatened insurance plans” has a distinct October 2013 feel to it. Republicans just can’t let go of that long awaited Grand Obamacare Reckoning that was supposed to be underway, until the Obamacare Horror Stories withered away and the bad headlines were swamped by millions of new enrollees.
Yes, Pryor is probably still vulnerable to the ad’s attack on his claim that everyone could keep their plans. However, pointing to lost insurance is an odd thing to do in Arkansas in particular, since this state has shown the sharpest drop in the uninsured rate of any in the country. Speaking of that drop, the Republican Senate candidate there — Rep. Tom Cotton — still refuses to say whether he’d roll back the state’s version of the Medicaid expansion, which is largely responsible for it.
As I’ve noted before, many Republican Senate candidates are basically running against the word “Obamacare” while professing general support for its overall goals and fudging on whether they’d take its benefits away from people. This new spot shows Republicans running against this thing called “Obamacare” they created years ago and still can’t let go of. Will Republicans win these races anyway? Sure, that’s very possible, but that would be largely a function of the bad map. Indeed, at this point it seems clear that attacks on Obamacare are more about linking Dems to Obama’s general unpopularity than to anything in the actual law. When it comes to the law itself, if anything, the Crossroad ad shows that — yup — the politics of it are more complicated and less clear cut than many admit.
* CLIMATE CHANGE A BIG ISSUE IN MICHIGAN: The League of Conservation Voters is up with a new ad in Michigan that rips GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land for denying climate science, pinning the blame for it directly on her support from the Koch brothers.
The Dem candidate — Gary Peters — has also moved to show that climate can be made a major issue here, with the result that the oil billionaire brothers could be becoming a real liability for the Republicans.
* BIG DEBATE SET IN NORTH CAROLINA: The Charlotte Observer has a curtain-raiser on what to look for in tonight’s debate between North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan and GOP challenger Thom Tillis. Dems believe Tillis is turning out to be a surprisingly bad candidate, most recently due to his continued presiding over the state legislature’s latest turbulence after its hard right turn, which is a liability for him. Tonight he’ll be tested in a nationally watched debate.
* ANOTHER ROUND OF BAD OBAMACARE HEADLINES? The New York Times has an overview of all the problems that could pop up as Obamacare enters its second open enrollment period, from higher premiums (though some will have lower ones) to other challenges associated with efforts to sign up five million more people.
Reminder: The predictions of doom about Obamacare have simply failed to materialize. Will there be some bad headlines that Republicans (and news orgs) will hype endlessly, frightening skittish Dems? Sure. But a rerun on the magnitude of last fall? Doubtful.
* McCONNELL MUM ON BRIBERY CASE: The Herald-Leader reports that Mitch McConnell is refusing to address “the resignation of his former campaign manager, Jesse Benton, who quit last week as questions swirled about his role in a federal bribery case in Iowa.”
The two campaigns have entered a phase of intensifying ethics allegations (the one directed at Alison Grimes involves her campaign bus), even as McConnell is edging into a small but significant lead.
* HILLARY TO FACE DEM CHALLENGER? The Wall Street Journal reports that top Dem fundraisers claim Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has said he’ll enter the presidential primary even if Hillary Clinton is in it. He’s raising his profile on the left:
O’Malley signed a law raising the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2018….he signed legislation banning various kinds of assault weapons and imposing new limits on the size of gun magazines….he pushed through the first state gas-tax increase since 1992…O’Malley said unaccompanied minors illegally entering the U.S. shouldn’t be returned to home countries where they would be in danger — a position at odds with the White House.
There is actually a good deal of unity among Democrats on many issues, but there does seem to be a desire among at least some leading Dem activists to see Hillary challenged from the left.
* SENATE GOP PUTTING AMERICAN INFLUENCE AT RISK? David Ignatius has an interesting column accusing Senate Republicans of putting American influence at risk by refusing to confirm ambassadors:
Even by Washington standards, the Senate Republicans have hit a new low for hypocrisy. They denounce President Obama’s inaction on foreign policy — and simultaneously refuse to confirm his nominees for U.S. ambassadors to such hot spots as Turkey, on the front lines against the Islamic State, and Sierra Leone, epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. Let’s say it plainly: This is how nations lose their power and influence, when they are unable to agree even on basic matters such as diplomatic representation.
Like so much else about today’s GOP, this too will likely be treated as Washington business as usual.
* YES, APROACH ISIS WITH CAUTION: Tom Friedman defends Obama against criticism of his “we don’t have a strategy yet” quote, arguing that a cautious, deliberative approach is exactly what’s called for:
There are no words to describe the vileness of the video beheadings of two American journalists by ISIS, but I have no doubt that they’re meant to get us to overreact, à la 9/11, and rush off again without a strategy. ISIS is awful, but it is not a threat to America’s homeland.
Today Twitter is worked up because Obama said the ultimate goal is to shrink ISIS until it is a “manageable problem.”