Obamacare supporters react to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold President Obama's health care law, on June 28, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Dems doing the unexpected: embracing the ACA

At a press conference last week, a reporter asked President Obama whether “it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits” of the Affordable Care Act. The president suggested the larger political discussion should start to include other issues, but he nevertheless gave Dems some direction.
“I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud” of the Americans benefiting from the ACA, he said, “I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.”
And with increasing frequency, Democrats have become eager to tell this strong, good, right story. In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) launched this new spot today, which Greg Sargent fairly characterized as “probably the most aggressively pro-Obamacare ad of the cycle.”
Far from keeping the ACA at arm’s length, Schwartz actually boasts about having supported the law, takes some credit for helping write it, and features a brief snippet of her departing Air Force One with the president.
The context, of course, matters. In this case, Schwartz is in a competitive primary in which she’s no longer the frontrunner, so an ad like this one is intended to connect with the Democratic base, not a statewide, general-election audience.
Still, the Beltway conventional wisdom has said for months that ads like these simply wouldn’t happen – Democrats would have no choice but to run from, not run on, the unpopular “Obamacare.”
Schwartz’s new ad shows otherwise and it’s hardly the only piece of evidence that suggests the conventional wisdom was wrong.
We talked two weeks ago, for example, about a very impressive independent-expenditure ad in Alaska, touting Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) support for the health care reform law.
In Louisiana, meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is touting the importance of Medicaid expansion and pushing to allow voters to decide its fate in November. And in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Arkansas, groups aligned with Democrats are airing pretty hard-hitting ads criticizing Republicans who don’t support health care reform.
I don’t want to overstate matters – the Affordable Care Act still isn’t popular. It’s not as unpopular as repealing the ACA, but it’d be a real stretch to see “Obamacare” as the solution to Democrats’ uphill climb in the 2014 midterms. Indeed, for every Democrat willing to talk about their support for the law, there’s very likely another who’d prefer to talk about something else.
But it’s not fall 2013 anymore. Just about all of the news surrounding the law has been excellent of late, and as the prevailing winds shift direction, a growing number of Democrats are suddenly willing to incorporate their health care successes into their campaign strategies.
Republicans, meanwhile, are stuck rooting against the success of the American system, pretending good news is bad news, and stuck in a state of delusional denial with no credible alternative to the law they claim to hate.
A few months ago, it would have been tough to predict the debate over health care would end up at this point, but here we are.