U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, right, participates in a discussion with college students about increasing college costs and student loans in Little Rock, Ark., on May 29, 2014.
Danny Johnston/AP

Exclusive first look: Arkansas’ Pryor doubles down on ACA

Updated
Just two weeks ago, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) surprised much of the political world with a powerful television ad. Though the conventional wisdom was that Pryor, facing a tough re-election fight, would avoid talking about the Affordable Care Act, but the senator nevertheless did the opposite, boasting about the benefits he’s delivered for Arkansans through the ACA.
 
“No one should be fighting an insurance company while you’re fighting for your life,” Pryor said in the spot. “That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions.”
 
Karl Rove’s attack operation, Crossroads GPS, responded with an ad of its own, saying it doesn’t matter if those benefits are good; what matters is that the benefits are part of “Obamacare.” (Attacking the brand name is all the right has left.) What’s more, Crossroads and Pryor’s opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R), have tried moving to the left, accusing Pryor of voting for Medicare “cuts” when the Affordable Care Act passed.
 
Would Pryor back down? As it turns out, no. MaddowBlog received an exclusive first look at the Pryor campaign’s new campaign ad, which is the second spot in which the Arkansas senator boasts about ACA benefits.
For those who can’t watch clips online, the ad features Pryor, speaking directly to the camera:
“My opponent knows I did not cut Medicare benefits. I cut waste and protected benefits.
 
“Insurance companies were charging $115 for every $100 of services, ripping off taxpayers. Cutting this waste adds years to the life of Medicare and provides for more doctor visits and preventative care.
 
“I’m Mark Pryor and I approve this message because making sure seniors get the health care they need is responsible. Overpaying insurance companies isn’t.”
It’s an effective message, which has the added benefit of being accurate, which is more than can be said about the Crossroads attacks.
 
But let’s not miss the forest for the trees here: the politics of health care are changing, quickly and dramatically, and this spot is emblematic of the broader shift.
 
As we talked about two weeks ago, most political observers simply assumed that “Obamacare” was toxic, especially for red-state Democrats. But Pryor isn’t running from his record on health care, he’s running on it.
 
At the same time, Republicans are moving away from their health care attack ads and struggling to answer questions about Medicaid expansion. Even Tom Cotton, one of this year’s most far-right statewide candidates, wants voters to see him as a champion of social-insurance programs like Medicare – which is itself a socialized system – despite his votes to privatize Medicare out of existence.
 
Earlier this year, all of this was supposed to be impossible. Republicans, we were assured, would stay on the offensive, attacking “Obamacare,” while Democrats desperately hid from the issue. And yet, here we are, watching the conventional wisdom get turned upside down. Indeed, Pryor’s ad is a reminder that while voters say they don’t like the reform law, they love what’s in the reform law – even in a red state in the Deep South.
 
It’s time – indeed, it’s arguably past time – for the political world to shift its expectations accordingly.
 

Affordable Care Act, Arkansas, Health Care, Mark Pryor, Obamacare and Tom Cotton

Exclusive first look: Arkansas' Pryor doubles down on ACA

Updated