The Washington Post

This Democrat L-O-V-E-S Obamacare and wants the world to know it

The first 17 words out of Rep. Allyson Schwartz's mouth in her new TV ad don't sound anything like what you'd expect to hear a typical 2014 Democratic candidate say: "I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act and getting health coverage to all Americans."

Of course, Schwartz is not running  in a typical race. She's running for governor of Pennsylvania in a contested Democratic primary. While in most races the ad would be a head-scratcher, in hers, cozying up to the president and emphasizing her support for the law could help.

First, it allows Schwartz to paint her congressional service in a positive light at a time when Congress is woefully unpopular and threatens to drag down her chances. Two, it enables her to distinguish herself from the field on an issue liberal voters care about. She's the only member of Congress in the Democratic race. That means she is also the only one who cast a vote for the health-care law. Third, Schwartz goes after Gov. Tom Corbett (R) on Medicaid expansion. She needs to convince primary voters she represents a sharp contrast with the Republican and the ad helps her make that case.

Recent polling shows businessman Tom Wolf (D) leading Schwartz and two other candidates by a wide margin ahead of the May 20 primary. But Schwartz has only recently hit the airwaves, and many voters are undecided, suggesting that the race might tighten. Schwartz is spending more than $500,000 to air the ad in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia media markets.

In most competitive races, Democrats who voted for Obamacare have been trying hard to distance themselves from the law by touting proposed fixes and trumpeting the pressure they applied on the Obama administration when things were going poorly with the rollout. Obama recently encouraged Democrats to go on offense with Obamacare, and we are starting to see signs they are doing so more often. A Democratic super PAC ad in the battleground Alaska Senate race is the perfect example.

But don't expect to see Democrats lean into Obamacare as much as Schwartz is in her new ad. What may work in a race-to-the-left gubernatorial primary is still politically untenable in most competitive races for Congress.

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

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