Democrats apparently think they've got a new campaign issue.
Over the weekend, the head of the National Institutes of Health suggested to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein that there might currently be an Ebola vaccine if NIH hadn't undergone a steady decline in funding over the past decade.
"Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready," Francis Collins said.
That's a pretty bold assessment. And now, Democrats are latching on to it.
On Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched banner Web ads against Republicans, hitting them for voting to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control. The ads echo an August TV ad from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) hitting Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for voting against the reauthorization of public health and emergency programs that included pandemic response.
Here's the DCCC ad:
Also on Monday, there was a Web video making a similar point from The Agenda Project — a liberal group that is fond of reminding us that it launched the ads in which "Paul Ryan" pushed granny off a cliff. (Warning: Some brief, graphic content in the new Ebola ads.)
Neither effort has a huge amount of money behind it, and the latter ad is pretty low-rent. But it does appear that Democrats/liberals are at least toying with the idea of hitting Republicans for voting to cut funding to things like NIH and CDC.
As we've noted before, though, Americans at this point are actually pretty unconcerned that Ebola will have an impact on them directly. It's a really buzz-worthy news story, but it's not clear that it's a huge voting issue for many folks right now. Pryor, for instance, hasn't gone back to the well on Ebola, and probably won't after what happened last week.
That could certainly start to change if the disease starts to spread more quickly. But we're just three weeks before the 2014 election, and right now this feels like a trial balloon.