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Dems run on, not from, the ACA

The conventional wisdom on the politics of health care usually goes unchallenged: Democrats must avoid the ACA. It's time to reevaluate those assumptions.
The conventional wisdom on the politics of health care is so widely accepted, it usually goes unchallenged. Democrats -- especially vulnerable, red-state Democrats -- will be desperate to avoid the Affordable Care Act this election year, eager to talk about anything but the health care law.
Indeed, Dems will simply have no choice: they will run from, not on, their record and the ACA successes.
Perhaps now would be a good time to reevaluate those assumptions.

The Affordable Care Act remains deeply unpopular across the conservative terrain of Alaska, but a super PAC supporting Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's reelection isn't shying away from touting the health care law's success stories. The pro-Begich group Put Alaska First released an ad Thursday titled "Beat," in which breast cancer survivor Lisa Keller notes Obamacare enabled her to get health insurance despite the 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."
For those who believe the conventional wisdom, an ad like this is simply madness. Why would Begich's allies remind red-state voters about his role in bringing affordable health care and consumer protections to Alaskans?
Maybe because the broader conversation is undergoing a long-overdue shift. As an electoral matter, Democrats will own the increasingly successful health care law whether they brag or hide, so they might as well start reminding the public about why this was a good idea -- and why they're proud to have championed reforms that benefit Americans like Alaska's Lisa Keller.
What's more, Begich's allies aren't the only ones thinking along these lines.
As we talked about last week, Senate Majority PAC, which exists to help elect Democratic Senate candidates, is also hitting the airwaves with health care ads in states like Michigan and Arkansas. They're worth a look -- Senate Majority PAC, instead of waiting in a defensive crouch, is going on the offensive, criticizing Republican candidates who don't support health care reform.
It'd be foolish to deny the complexity of the political circumstances. The prevailing political winds may slowly be shifting, but we don't know for how long, and there are some aggressive billionaires ready to invest heavily to push back in the other direction.
What's more, Greg Sargent noted the results of the latest Pew Research Center survey yesterday that found, among other things, that "Obamacare" is not only still unpopular, but that Republican voters hate it more than Democratic voters love it.
But the way to change these beliefs is for ACA proponents to take a strong argument to the public. As the above ad shows, Put Alaska First is doing exactly that.