An Americans for Prosperity ad targets Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) with claims health care isn't about politics. We put the ad to the Truth Teller test. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)


Another day, another Obamacare “victim” ad from Americans for Prosperity shown to be a pack of nonsense.

Today Post fact checker Glenn Kessler takes apart yet another AFP spot, which is targeting multiple Senate Dems, that claims “millions” have “lost their health insurance” and “are paying more and getting less.” Kessler pillories these “sweeping” assertions that “lack context or offer a misleading picture.”

But the broader picture is worth appreciating, too. If you survey AFP spots over time, you’ll see that as they have come under scrutiny, the Obamacare victim tales have gradually withered away and disappeared. A rundown:

— The AFP ad that initially got the most attention featured Michigan cancer victim Julie Boonstra suggesting that under Obamacare, she lost her old plan and her new one was “unaffordable.” It was subsequently revealed that she will actually save money.

— The AFP then offered a second Boonstra ad that claimed Dems were attacking her “credibility,” but meanwhile, it featured Boonstra dropping the “unaffordable” claim and subbing in the assertion that her new plan “doesn’t work for me.” As Kessler noted, the language shift was designed to be vaguer and “harder to fact check.”

— The AFP launched new ads featuring two alleged Obamacare victims that refrained from making any kind of pronouncement about the law’s overall impact on them, thus carefully skirting making any claims like the one that got the Boonstra ad in trouble.

— The AFP then released a spot attacking Senator Mark Pryor presenting only the notification of a canceled plan as the hardship endured — unlike previous spots which at least made gestures towards telling a somewhat fuller story. And it turned out that cancellation of Arkansas plans has been deferred for years.

— Finally, the spot that Kessler debunks today does not even feature an anecdote or individual victim, instead making broader claims about how Obamacare has impacted “millions.” And even those general claims are misleading.

The point here is not that nobody has had a bad experience with the law. As Jonathan Cohn notes, it’s perfectly possible those in that category number in the “low millions,” but it’s likely most of their stories are too nuanced to be useful or that many are healthy or somewhat better off financially and don’t fit the casting profile AFP wants in its Obamacare victims. Indeed, as Cohn adds, broadly speaking health care tear jerker anecdotes are now less likely, thanks to the very Obamacare protections and subsidies Republicans want to gut.

Or, as Paul Krugman puts it, the AFP’s narrative about the law is the opposite of reality: “What the Act does is in effect to increase the burden on fortunate people — the healthy and wealthy — to lift some burdens on the less fortunate: people with chronic illnesses or other preexisting conditions, low-income workers.”

Beyond this, the New York Times has reported that the millions in AFP ads are all about telling an even bigger story designed to discredit government more generally as an agent of positive economic change, partly in service of a low-tax, low-regulation agenda that will benefit AFP’s wealthy backers. Yet the Obamacare victim tales that have been pressed into service to tell that story are shriveling up and vanishing.


* OBAMA TO END NSA BULK DATA COLLECTION: Big news from the New York Times: Obama will announce reforms to the National Security Agency that will apparently put an end to the program that had drawn the most criticism from civil libertarians:

Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.

This appears to go farther than other reforms he had mulled, such as requiring another party to retain the data. While the details will matter, this looks like it’s heading towards an outcome civil libertarians may embrace, at least in part, and suggests sustained outside pressure — and journalistic revelations set in motion by Edward Snowden — may be paying off.

* LABOR LEADER TO RIP OBAMA OVER TRADE: AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka is set to give a speech today attacking the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal being negotiated by the Obama administration. According to excerpts, he will directly hit the President’s claims to concern about inequality:

“Make no mistake about it, NAFTA-style trade deals that put Wall Street first and workers last are goners, no matter how quote-unquote “progressive” their advocates portray them to be. We are ready to stand with President Obama in realizing the vision of global economic growth and equity.  But first he has to decide if that is the vision that will animate his trade policies.”

It’s another sign that trade will continue to cause a rift within the Democratic Party, particularly as those pushing the party towards a more economically progressive and populist stance remain ascendant.

* YES, THE SENATE MAP IS GRIM FOR DEMS: Charlie Cook brings us another overview of the Senate map that reveals yet again that Dems are facing some severe fundamentals when it comes to retaining the majority. However, this nugget, on Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, is useful:

Conventional wisdom has labeled Pryor as the walking dead, even though multiple private Democratic polls (by different pollsters) have never showed him down as much as a single point. The one high-quality public poll where all the details are available — conducted by the Democratic polling firm of Hickman Analytics for an energy-industry group — had Pryor ahead of Rep. Tom Cotton by three points among all likely voters, and two points behind among definite voters; both are margin-of-error variances. This is an example how the perception of a race often can be driven by sketchy polling.

National Dems are hopeful that individual campaigns and candidates will matter enough to offset the national environment and makeup of the map, which obviously are terrible for them. As best as I can determine, they genuinely do believe Pryor is in better shape than many commentators assume.

* A NEW REPORT ON OBAMACARE’S PERFORMANCE: More from Jonathan Cohn: The focus on how many uninsured are getting covered is not the full story; a new report from the Commonwealth Fund shows the underinsured are also gaining. Conclusion of the study’s co-author:

“The Affordable Care Act will significantly reduce underinsurance since it sets a national floor for benefits, requires that plans cover a minimum level of costs, bans pre-existing condition exclusions as well as lifetime and annual benefit limits, and increases cost-sharing protections for people with low and moderate incomes. The problem of underinsurance is most pronounced among low and moderate income families and the provisions of the law are well-targeted at significantly improving coverage for people who have in the past spent large shares of their income on health care.”

Click the link for details and charts.

* GOP CANDIDATES STRUGGLE WITH OBAMACARE: Brian Beutler highlights this striking quote from an adviser to Terri Lynn Land, the GOP Senate candidate in Michigan:

The problem with Obamacare is that it allows people to wait until they’re very sick to purchase insurance, which creates significant and unknown risks to insurers and then the insurance companies would pass that cost on to consumers.”

As Beutler notes, this illustrates the broader problem Republican candidates face as they seek to craft a coherent policy response to the fact of mounting Obamacare enrollment. Reminder: Land is the one who also embraced the Medicaid expansion when under pressure, suggesting it is good for “families” (while simultaneously claiming Obamacare “does not work”).

* REPUBLICANS STRUGGLE WITH OBAMACARE REPEAL: Related to the above: Byron York has a good piece reporting that Republicans are realizing that any alternative to Obamacare they propose will have to reckon with the fact that the law has already taken root, and uprooting it will cause further disruptions.

* KEEP AN EYE ON THE MISSISSIPPI SENATE RACE: NBC News has an interesting look at Tea Party state senator Chris McDaniel’s challenge to GOP Senator Thad Cochran, which national conservatives are viewing as their best chance to “stick it to the Republican establishment.”

Of course, Dems are hopeful that this effort will succeed; they’ve recruited former Rep. Travis Childers, and it’s not inconceivably he could beat a Tea Party opponent, which would constitute a surprise pickup making the GOP road to a majority far steeper.

* AND HERE’S WHY NEW HAMPSHIRE MAY NOT EMBRACE SCOTT BROWN: The Associated Press finds that Scott Brown is running into difficulties in persuading New Hampshire voters that he is one of them, and somehow manages to elicit this response from Brown:

“Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. ‘Cause, you know, whatever. But I have long and strong ties to this state.”

Dems are already hammering Brown as a politician who is running in New Hampshire to benefit himself, not the state. But as the AP notes, Brown has a secret weapon in response: “faded blue jeans, cowboy boots and a storied pickup truck.”