GOP Stocks Up on Obamacare Ammunition for Upcoming Elections

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Before last week’s Florida special election, Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the man in charge of the party’s 2014 House of Representatives election campaigns, cautioned against reading too deeply into midterm congressional elections, as the results may not be a referendum on the Affordable Care Act. And while he tempered that statement somewhat on the day after Floridians voted Republican David Jolly into office by saying that the Democratic Party should be “pretty panicked this morning,” he was right in noting that upcoming elections will not be just about Obamacare.

Democrats are expected to have a tough midterm election, and the source of the party’s difficulties is larger than any one particular issue, candidate, or president. Nevertheless, the Affordable Care Act is the issue around which candidates across the GOP ticket are building their campaign platforms. The party likely believes that a focus on the law will rally voters, and the stance against healthcare reform also is more than a statement about policy: It reflects a lawmaker’s philosophy about government.

Key to these campaigns are the stories of bad experiences Americans have had with the purchase of coverage through the insurance exchanges created by the reform and the cancellation of policies that do not comply with the requirements of the reform. As Elizabeth Wilner — president of Kantar Media CMAG, which tracks political advertising — told The Wall Street Journal, criticism of the Affordable Care Act is the most popular theme in political ads this year. “People running for dogcatcher are saying ‘Obamacare is terrible’ in their ads. That’s a slight exaggeration, but not much of one,” she said.

It may seem ironic that a great many candidates running anti-Obamacare ads are not campaigning for a seat in Congress, where they would be positioned to change the law. Instead, they are vying for seats in state legislatures or for the position of attorney general. State lawmakers and attorneys general in a number of states played huge roles in limiting the reach of the Affordable Care Act by deciding whether to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage and by joining lawsuits seeking to invalidate the law. As most of those issues are now settled, political ad rhetoric has turned more to philosophical arguments against the law. But many politicians that are running for reelection at the state level are able to point to the votes they cast against the expansion of Medicaid for example and as proof they fought the implementation of the law.

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