The Washington Post

Heidi Heitkamp runs with Obamacare

In a new television ad, North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp (D) walks a delicate line on the President’s health-care law in a red state where “Obamacare” is a powerful insult.

The ad is among the first in which a Democratic candidate running in a targeted Senate race that takes on the Affordable Care Act, which has become a huge political football in the past two years.

Recent ads from two GOP super PACs — Crossroads GPS and American Action Fund — hammered Heitkamp for supporting the health-care legislation, arguing that it will cut care for seniors.

Drawing on her personal battle with breast cancer, Heitkamp distances herself from Obamacare while attacking Rep. Rick Berg (R) for opposing the law.

“I’m Heidi Heitkamp, and twelve years ago I beat breast cancer,” she says. “When you live through that, political attack ads seem silly.”

Heitkamp pushes back on the Crossroads line, saying “I would never vote to take away a senior’s health-care or limit anyone’s care.” She criticizes Obama’s law, saying it contains “good and bad” and “it needs to be fixed.” But she attacks Berg for voting to repeal it. 

“Rick Berg voted to go back to letting insurance companies deny coverage to kids,” she says. “Or for pre-existing conditions ... I don’t ever want to go back to those days.”

It’s a savvy ad (from Mark Putnam, one of the best Democratic admakers out there) and a sign of why polls show Heitkamp neck-and-neck with Berg despite North Dakota’s increasingly conservative lean.

“Every victim of breast cancer deserves our respect and admiration, but it’s neither admirable nor respectful when you’re a politician doing anything and everything to mislead voters on your liberal record,” shot back National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Lance Trover.

Democrats running for Senate in swing/Republican leaning states — Missouri, Florida, Ohio, Nebraska, Virginia — will be watching carefully to see whether Heitkamp gets any traction with her pushback against Obamacare.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.


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