Americans for Prosperity, the deep-pocketed Tea Party group, has already spent tens of millions of dollars on anti-Obamacare ads battering vulnerable Democratic Senators and candidates in multiple states. AFP could spend as much as $200 million this cycle, so their ads could help decide who controls the Senate in 2015.
A new AFP spot hitting the Dem Senate candidate in Michigan — and AFP’s defense of it — dramatize the broader stakes here in a fresh way. The ad features the emotional story of a woman diagnosed with Leukemia. She says Obamacare led to cancelled insurance and a new plan with unaffordable out-of-pocket costs that could put her life at risk, because she may not be able to afford medication. “I feel lied to,” she says.
This morning Glenn Kessler does a great job looking at the facts of the situation, determining that Obamacare’s limit on out-of-pocket expenses, combined with the significantly lower premiums of her new plan, strongly suggest she won’t be paying more than under her previous plan.
But note how an AFP spokesman defends the ad. He says her month-to-month costs are now unpredictable, and thus emotionally taxing for the ill woman — though Kessler notes costs will even out over time — and adds:
Levi Russell, a spokesman for AFP, said he “would assume there is an OOP max, but this is the story of Julie, a real person suffering from blood cancer, not some neat and tidy White House PowerPoint about how the ACA is helping everyone.” He said there is a possibility that her specific chemotherapy medication will not be covered. […]
He concluded: “Now her expenses are unpredictable, and that means unaffordable. It could be $600 one month, and three times that the next month. The reality of what she’s dealing with is much more involved and can’t be swept aside by saying, ‘you have an OOP maximum so quit complaining about your cancer.’”
Now checking the facts in a story about an Obamacare victim broadcast by a group whose sole goal is to shift control of the Senate and repeal the law constitutes telling her to quit complaining about her terminal illness. This is essentially a declaration that the emotional content of these victims’ stories should shield such ads from scrutiny designed to determine whether they actually tell the broader tale about Obamacare its broadcasters claim they do. Meanwhile, when proponents cite people who benefit from the law, it is nothing but “neat and tidy” White House propaganda.
This is a useful marker in the broader debate. AFP has already run an ad in Louisiana featuring Obamacare victims played by actors, even as the group is aggressively pressuring state legislators there not to expand Medicaid coverage to untold numbers of real people who would benefit from it. Meanwhile, Obamacare foes hyped the CBO report as proof two million victims would be thrown out of work, but it actually found those not working as a result of the law would be doing so by choice, and may be better off, a fact Republicans have simply airbrushed out of the picture. And Bette in Spokane was featured in the GOP response to the State of the Union as another Obamacare victim, but in fact she hadn’t availed herself of Obamacare’s options, and it remains unknown whether her GOP Congresswoman even tried to help her to do so.
The broader GOP strategy is explicitly all about building a national narrative populated only with wrenching horror stories — people who have lost coverage and seen premiums soar, and, now, desperately ill people who have seen their lives disrupted — thanks to the heavy handed big government recklessness all these Dems stand for. In this narrative, people who have had their lives improved by the law and are now enjoying health coverage for the first time — and the security and peace of mind that accompany it — simply don’t exist, and indeed, Republicans have actively discouraged such stories from coming into being. Meanwhile, many of the horror stories are turning out to be hyped, bogus, or distorted. But they will have huge sums of money behind them. And scrutiny of them will be met with charges of insensitivity to the victims. Just in case you didn’t grasp the magnitude of the stakes here.
* KEEP AN EYE ON THE MICHIGAN SENATE RACE: Related to the above: Politico has an interesting look at the Michigan Senate race, where an early anti-Obamacare ad barrage from Americans for Prosperity has produced an unexpectedly tight contest between Dem Rep. Gary Peters and Republican Terry Land. The crux:
In the past three presidential elections, around 5 million voters have gone to the polls, compared with just 3.3 million in the 2010 midterms. In that election, just 10 percent of African-American voters came out to vote, compared with 16 percent who voted in 2012…Democrats hope to turn out more than 3.5 million voters this year, largely by inspiring more minorities to go to the polls…With the conservative Legislature pushing forward policies that have infuriated the left, including so-called right-to-work legislation weakening the power of labor unions, Democrats are bullish that turnout will be high as the party tries to take down GOP Gov. Rick Snyder in the fall.
Once Dems engage on the air, will Peters develop a lead? If so, that would suggest the AFP ad barrage has created an artificial impression of a winnable race for Republicans. If not, that would mean Republicans are broadening the Senate map outside the ed state battlegrounds, making the Dem ability to turn out key constituencies — and avoid another 2010 — pivotal to whether Dems keep the Senate.
* DEMS TAKING THREAT TO SENATE CONTROL SERIOUSLY: The Post has a good overview of both sides’ views of the Senate map, with Democrats gearing up to protect their majority with a fresh urgency. Note this:
Democrats believe the key to preserving their majority is a $60 million program to expand the off-year electorate to include more blacks and women who traditionally vote only in presidential elections. If the 2014 electorate mirrors the 2010 midterm electorate, on the other hand, Democratic officials concede they could lose the Senate.
As I’ve reported here, pocketbook issues like the minimum wage and even the Medicaid expansion are seen as key to boosting turnout among these core groups, even in red states where the overall law remains very unpopular.
* WHY GOP HAS ADVANTAGE IN SENATE MIDTERMS: A must read from Sahil Kapur, noting that the Republican advantage in the midterms is very real, but it isn’t about Obamacare, it’s about the fundamentals:
Forget Obamacare, forget the government shutdown and forget the skirmish over the minimum wage. While these issues are atop the political conversation, mid-term elections are better understood by fundamentals like the economy and presidential popularity, voter turnout tendencies and the specific dynamics at play in the House and Senate.
Read the whole thing for the details. Again: It can be true that Republicans very likely will win a lot of Senate seats, perhaps even six or more, while it is also true that Obamacare is unlikely to be a leading reason why.
* OBAMA FACES KEY TEST ON CLIMATE: Adam Liptak has a good report on a looming Supreme Court decision on a challenge to EPA regulations being brought by Republicans and business groups. The central question is whether the administration overstepped Constitutional authority by reinterpreting the Clean Air Act to carry out its mission to regulate emissions in the interest of public health.
The Court isn’t questioning the mission itself, just this rules change, and as a result, experts say SCOTUS’s decision won’t have that much practical impact. But a rebuke would be widely portrayed as the latest example of Obama tyranny, and the question would become whether that will weaken the administration’s resolve to employ executive authority on climate when it will mean more political blowback.
* REPUBLICANS RESIST MEDICAID EXPANSION IN VIRGINIA: The Post reports that Republican state legislators in Virginia continue to refuse to budge on expanding Medicaid in Virginia, though Dem Governor Terry McAuliffe won the recent election on this issue, and has offered concessions to Republicans to get them to accept the expansion. It’s the latest sign that in some pockets, absolute resistance to Obamacare lives on, even if — as supporters argue — it could mean the state turns away federal money that would create jobs and hundreds of thousands go without coverage.
* LATINOS ENROLLING IN OBAMACARE IN CALIFORNIA: The Los Angeles Times reports that efforts by California to bring in Latino enrollees for the health law are paying off. This is key, because there had been some worries that Hispanics were enrolling in disproportionately low numbers, and it’s another reminder that the law can work if state officials want it to.
* AND TIME TO REPEAL ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAWS: E.J. Dionne does a nice job linking the debate over “stand your ground” laws to the argument over guns:
Stand-your-ground laws shift the balance of power on the streets to those who carry weapons. They thus provide an incentive for everyone to be armed, which is why the National Rifle Association has pressured legislatures in some two dozen states to enact them. We shouldn’t have to wait for another death and controversial trial to recognize that this is a poor reason for laws that cause such palpable harm. It’s time to repeal them.