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Pro-Begich ad embraces Obamacare

The anti-Obamacare stigma dogging Democrats in red-leaning states may soon fade away.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) (R) speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9, 2013 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) (R) speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Most vulnerable Democratic candidates are running away from fully embracing Obamacare in red-leaning states. But in a turn, a new ad is shedding the stigma by running at the issue head on.

Put Alaska First, a super PAC supporting Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, launched the ad campaign Thursday featuring Anchorage resident and breast cancer survivor, Lisa Keller. In the 30-second clip, Keller runs outdoors through the Alaskan snow and recounts how her insurance company dropped her coverage because of a pre-existing condition. 

"I was lucky I beat cancer, but the insurance companies still denied me health insurance just because of a pre-existing condition," Keller says in the ad. "I now have health insurance again because of Mark Begich. Because he fought the insurance companies, so that we no longer have to."

The pro-Obamacare offensive marks a significant change of approach to the president’s signature health care law, which has been seen as a politically toxic issue for Democrats in competitive races. The success story, though, notably omits any mention that the benefits were thanks to the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Begich is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats who are carefully toeing the line on the issue. Sen. Mary Landrieu, an endangered Democrat who is clinging to her Louisiana seat, has carefully defended her support of the Affordable Care Act by highlighting efforts to fix the law. Her first re-election campaign TV ad responded to public unease over losing outdated health care plans by lauding her own bill that allowed Americans to keep their old plans.

The $130,000 Put Alaska First slot will run statewide for the next week. In casting Keller, who describes herself as a true Alaskan, born and raised, the super PAC landed a subtle dig against groups caught using paid actors to pose as residents outraged by the health care reform. Americans for Prosperity, the conservative super PAC group bankrolled by the billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, was called out last year after an Alaskan voter featured in an anti-Obamacare ad was revealed to be an actress from Maryland. The Koch group has flooded the market with attack ads in Alaska, adding to a more than $30 million tab targeting Democrats this election cycle.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey released early February, Begich has a narrow lead over the GOP field. He outpaces Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan by four points, 41%-to-37%. In a match-up with Mead Teadwell, Begich bests Alaska’s lieutenant governor 43%-37%.