The Washington Post

Meet the four distinct types of Obamacare ads flooding the airwaves (VIDEO)

Republican and Democratic groups and candidates have been flooding the airwaves with ads about the federal health-care law all across the country. But not all commercials are created equal.

Some slam the law and, by extension, the Democrats who support it. Others hit Republicans for overreaching with their efforts to undo it. And more than a handful talk about pols trying to fix the problems with Obamacare.

The contrasting tones and focal points of these ads speak volumes about the strategies both sides are deploying as the parties jockey to sway public opinion ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. It's helpful to think of the ads as part of broader categories, so here are the four that stand out most:

1. The "We're trying to fix what's broken" commercial.

Who's running it: Democrats, including the House Majority PAC on behalf of Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), as well as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

A good example: The Garcia ad, which says he is taking "the White House to task for the disastrous health-care Web site."

The strategy: Public opinion about Obamacare is not good. The law's botched rollout in the fall only made matters worse. For Democrats running in areas where moderate voters have a big say in who gets elected, Democrats need to demonstrate what they are doing to press the Obama administration to improve the law. It's not enough to simply say, "Hey, I support the law." It has to be, "Hey, I support the law, but it needs to be fixed, and here's what I'm doing." The preponderance of these commercials illustrates the tough spot Obamacare has put Democrats in headed toward November. They are going to have to play a lot of defense and put distance between themselves and the president.

2. The "Lie of the Year" ad.

Who's running it: Republicans, including Americans For Prosperity in spots singling out Senate candidates Reps. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), among others.

A good example: Ending Spending Inc.'s ad last year against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

The strategy: Politifact named President Obama's long-standing if-you-like-your-plan-you-can-keep it refrain its "Lie of the Year" in 2013. So the playbook is simple here: Single out Democrats who echoed that line, even to a limited degree, and then remind voters about it. Or, put footage of Democrats praising the law generally in spots that include the "Lie of the Year" information.

3. The "Repeal is not the answer" or "Republicans are too extreme" ad.

Who's running it: Democrats, including Florida 13th district candidate Alex Sink and Patriot Majority PAC, targeting North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

A good example: Sink's ad in the Florida special election.

The strategy: Democrats are banking on the idea that while Obamacare is unpopular, repeal is even less popular, as are certain conservative proposals on health care. It's a message that is aimed at moderates, but perhaps more importantly, at the Democratic base. Democrats tend to have less success in midterm years turning out core parts of their base, such as young people and minorities. Saying the other side is trying to turn back the clock is a rallying cry of sorts designed to spur liberal voters to vote -- especially in states like North Carolina where Democrats' failure or success could rest heavily on turnout levels among these voters.

4. The "Personal cost of Obamacare" ads.

Who's running it: Republicans, such as Americans For Prosperity

A good example: AFP's ad targeting Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

The strategy: The Obamacare debate is large and complex. So Republican groups are trying to drill down and try to connect with voters on a personal and non-confrontational level in hopes of rising above the noise of the political back-and-forth.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Highlights from Saturday's GOP debate
Except for an eminent domain attack from Bush, Trump largely avoided strikes from other candidates.

Christie went after Rubio for never having been a chief executive and for relying on talking points.

Carson tried to answer a question on Obamacare by lamenting that he hadn't been asked an earlier question about North Korea.
The GOP debate in 3 minutes
Listen
Play Video
Quoted
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Listen
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 38%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.