Michigan has emerged as a central front in the Obamacare wars. The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity has bludgeoned Dem Senate candidate Gary Peters with millions in ads featuring a cancer victim and a mom worried about high costs under the law. That has prompted hand-wringing among Dems — and tough questions from reporters — about whether Dems, by getting badly outspent, are letting Republicans successfully broaden the map onto relatively blue-ish territory.
Here’s the answer from Dems. A new ad from the Dem-allied Senate Majority PAC — part of a $3 million ad offensive in five states — takes aim at GOP candidate Terri Lynn Land’s support for repeal, a spot that’s backed by a $500,000 buy in most major Michigan markets:
The ad fuses two Dem strategies — the move to tie Republicans to the Koch brothers, and the attack on Republicans for threatening to take Obamacare’s benefits away from people. If Land is elected, the ad says, “insurance companies will be able to deny you coverage when you get sick. Women’s access to preventive health care would be cut, while their costs would increase.” The ad says that this is the agenda of the “billionaires” who are “paying for Terri Lynn Land’s Senate seat.”
Interestingly, the ad is in line with advice offered by Paul Begala and David Axelrod: To flip the script on Obamacare by leading with an attack on Republicans for threatening to take away your medical rights, rather than by defensively claiming Dems will fix the law. But, by tying repeal to the Kochs, it also sheds more light on the real purpose of the Dem “Koch addiction” strategy. The goal: To dramatize the GOP policy agenda as a blockade against efforts to increase economic mobility and protect working and middle class Americans from economic harm, maintaining an economic status quo that is rigged against them and for the one percent.
Or, as Alex Seitz-Wald details, this is really about drawing a “contrast by communicating what Republicans stand for in an emotionally salient way.”
The New York Times has spelled out as explicitly as you could want that AFP’s ads feature emotional victims of Obamacare for a deliberate purpose: to delegitimize government as an agent of positive economic change, in support of an anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda that benefits the bottom lines of AFP’s wealthy backers. The message is: Obamacare = the president, the #OBUMMER economy, and all the ways Big Government is making everything worse, so get rid of Obamacare’s enablers, and everything will get better for you.
The Dem response, essentially, is to point out why AFP is running these ads. Today’s Senate Majority PAC response ad features the same sort of emotional footage, only the victims this time are those who are at risk of losing Obamacare’s protections if AFP gets its way. My sense is the main intended audience is independent and moderate women, who are expected to be a key swing constituency in this race.
This new spot doesn’t mention Obamacare — underscoring again that the overall law remains unpopular — only naming popular provisions repeal would take away. It’s unclear whether this will work: the gamble is that people will instinctually know the provisions mentioned would be taken away by GOP repeal of the health law.
More broadly, as I’ve noted before, I have no idea if the Dem “Koch addiction” strategy will succeed. The underlying situation Dems face may be so dire that nothing can sufficiently mitigate built-in GOP advantages, and it’s perfectly possible voters won’t receive the message from it Dems want them to. Still, there’s no harm in understanding what the Dem strategy is actually designed to accomplish.