By SCOTT BAUER
The Associated Press
Monday, October 4, 2010; 4:40 PM
MADISON, Wis. -- Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin boldly embraces and defends his vote for the health care reform law in his latest campaign television ad, even as other Democrats avoid the topic and Republicans rail against it.
Feingold's Republican opponent, Ron Johnson, has his own ad taking Feingold to task for the March vote, saying Feingold went against the wishes of Wisconsin residents.
While other candidates have defended aspects of the health care law, most Democrats have shied away from it on the campaign trail as polls reflect voter concern about the scope and expense of the reforms.
President Barack Obama, with Feingold at his side, defended the law at a political rally on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus last week. Obama specifically touted the provision allowing young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance.
That change, as well as prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against children with preexisting conditions and banning lifetime coverage limits, are frequently cited by backers of the law.
Supporters also argue that Republicans, who have fired up their base by saying the law will lead to higher taxes and less services, are spreading confusion about the reforms in order to score political points. Johnson has said repealing the health care law would be one of his main goals if elected.
Polls in the hotly contested Senate race show the political newcomer Johnson with a lead over Feingold a month before the election. Feingold is seeking a fourth term.
Feingold's new ad, which began airing last week, features people talking to the camera saying the senator fought to stop insurance companies from denying coverage to Wisconsin children with pre-existing conditions. The ad claims Johnson, the owner of an Oshkosh plastics manufacturing company, would put insurance companies back in control and let them raise premiums as much as they want.
"Ron Johnson, hands off my health care," one narrator says.
Johnson's spokeswoman Sara Sendek said in a statement Monday that "Feingold should heed the advice in his own ad and keep his hands off our health care."
Feingold spokesman John Kraus said Monday that "taking on insurance companies and passing health insurance reform was the right thing to do."
"Russ has the backbone to stand by reform while Johnson doesn't have the guts to stand by his plan to repeal reform," Kraus said.
Johnson's ad accuses Feingold of putting "Washington ahead of Wisconsin" and claims many residents were against the "Obama takeover of health care."
Calling the new law a "takeover" leaves the impression it resulted in a government-run health care system when it did not. Johnson's ad also talks about $500 billion being cut from Medicare, but fails to mention those are savings over a 10-year period. Medicare spending still will increase over that time, just not as much as it would have.
The latest ad isn't the first time Feingold has attempted to turn a criticism of him on its head. He also has embraced Johnson calling him a career politician, challenging Johnson to explain why dedicating most of his life to public service is a bad thing.
The two candidates meet for their first debate Friday.