September 24th, 2009
08:30 AM ET
9 years ago

Maine TV is key front in health care battle

The largest city in Maine is ground zero in the television advertising war over health care reform that nationally is about to reach $100 million.

The largest city in Maine is ground zero in the television advertising war over health care reform that nationally is about to reach $100 million.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The largest city in Maine is ground zero in the television advertising war over health care reform that nationally is about to reach $100 million.

Organizations seeking to influence the health care debate have spent $1.5 million this year to run more than 4,650 separate commercials on TV stations in the coastal city of Portland, according to a new analysis conducted for CNN by TNSMI-Campaign Media Analysis Group (TNSMI-CMAG).

While Maine's population is just over 1.3 million, this small state casts a big shadow in the debate over health care reform. The state's two centrist Republican senators - Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins - are top targets for both pro- and anti- health care reform groups. Snowe is a member of a small group of Senate Finance Committee members known as the "Gang of Six," who met regularly to try and craft a bipartisan health care bill. The bipartisan pressure is nothing new for Maine's senators: Snowe and Collins are regularly lobbied by Democrats to break GOP ranks to vote with them on other issues.

"Until Sen. Collins and Sen. Snowe say unequivocally they are going to vote or not going to vote for the legislation, the state of Maine will continue to see this heavy volume of health care advertising," said Evan Tracey, president of TNSMI-CMAG and CNN's consultant on political TV advertising.

In Maine, Health Care for American Now - the umbrella group for pro-Obama health care organizations such as unions and - has aired 850 commercials, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has aired more than 600 TV ads opposing Obama's health care reform plan. In all, 15 different groups have run health care ads on Portland TV stations, said Tracey.

Since January, more than $99 million has been spent on health care TV ads that have run nationally and in local markets - the most money ever in this short period of time.

"The scale on health care is something we have never seen in dollars spent and the number of groups running commercials," Tracey said. "And it is only going to continue to grow."

Organizations that support President Obama's vision for health care reform have spent more than $39 million nationally, while opponents have dedicated $28 million on TV ads to try and stop his efforts. The remaining $32 million has been spent by groups that support health care reform, but have not taken a position against a particular plan, and organizations that don't support or oppose health care reform but have a cause or concern related to the issue.

Groups trying to influence the health care reform debate have also set their sights on Denver, Colorado and Little Rock, Arkansas, which ranked second and third on the list of cities that have faced a deluge of health care spots this cycle, the CMAG analysis showed. More than 4,300 health care ads have aired in Denver, while 4,250 have run in Little Rock. A handful of centrist Democrats - an ideological wing of the Democratic Party that has expressed some skepticism about Obama's plan - represent Colorado and Arkansas in Congress.

Follow Mark Preston on Twitter @prestoncnn

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Enough

    Why won't they let us READ the bill for ourselves? That alone should tell everyone that they don't want us to know what is in it. It was voted down to post it online. Beware of what they are trying to cram down your throats, the facts are in their actions. Don't believe what they tell you...............they lie!

    September 24, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  2. Jimmy

    Let US read the bill for ourselves. Where is the transparency promised by this administration?

    September 24, 2009 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  3. Todd

    Here is what I don't get, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday that the current health care reform bill supported by Obama will cut Medicare Advantage for over 10 million seniors who currently have it, and cut over $500 billion in Medicare reimbursements over the next 10 years for every senior in the U.S. Yet, the AARP who is the largest senior citizen insurance provider in the nation is running ads in Maine and everywhere else to support these cuts to their own customers? Aren't they supposed to be fighting for their customers? I wonder what kind of deal Obama made them? I feel so sad for senior citizens, their own president thinks that money spent on their healthcare through Medicare is wasteful, so he wants to take it away. What a sad and embarrasing time to be an american, and I voted for Obama.

    September 24, 2009 09:24 am at 9:24 am |

    I've donated to *Health Care for America NOW!*, which has run ads in the South as well as in Maine.

    I've also donated to ActBlue, which is running ads in Arkansas to tell Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Mike Ross to stop doing the bidding of the insurance industry by blocking the public health insurance option.

    And I have made contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and to Rob Miller of South Carolina for Congress, but reduced the amount I sent to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

    I sent the money to *Health Care for America NOW!* instead.

    After decades of letting private sector interests create huge problems in our health care system, we need real reform. THIS REFORM – OR FAILURE OF REFORM – WILL AFFECT US FOR DECADES TO COME.

    September 24, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. Mississippi Miss

    Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are not the type of leaders to be swayed by voters who are swayed by commercials. I would have to shoot my T.V. set, if I lived in Portland. Let us pray that reason and sound judgement prevail upon these two lady citizens, and that they
    will read the bill, try to find the hidden agenda that this administration loves to call 'language of the bill'. With all of the rhetoric on both sides, and the ability of legislators to sneak things into legislation, we
    will have to wait and see exactly what they do to us in Washington.

    Consider yourself a victim, and hope the wounds are treatable.

    I am only pessimistic, because their are some real Bozo Democrats in power right now. (good ones too, but not nearly enough of them)

    September 24, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  6. Kevin in Ohio

    Its amazing to me that people will even listen to groups such as and the corrupt unions. And ignore the groundswell of Americans, a majority of which is now opposed to government run Health care.

    September 24, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  7. Hennessy Cognac Black, WI

    I think it very appropriatel and telling, that these 6 ego-manical Senators are called: "The Gang of 6."

    This is a term that could be applied to all 535 members of Congress, except we would call them the: "Gang of 535."

    It is such a shame for America that so few, well bought and paid for by the Health Care Industry, should determine what ALL Americans should have had well over 40 years ago...

    September 24, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  8. Puerto Ricans forgotten in health care

    hope the president and congress remembers that before he rushes to vote on the health care debate, the Kennedy wanted to make sure all Americans were covered. Especially the Americans in the US territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

    Remember that although most of us are not white, our red blood is shed by our servicemen during the draft.

    September 24, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |

    Maine TV isn’t the only major front in the health care battle.

    ActBlue will run ads in Arkansas to tell Sen. BLANCHE LINCOLN and Rep. MIKE ROSS to stop doing the bidding of the insurance industry.

    STOP blocking the public health insurance option!

    ActBlue is SO CLOSE to having raised enough money to ensure that the people of Arkansas will see the ad over and over again for two weeks on prime time network TV.

    I also sent the money to *Health Care for America NOW!* instead.

    After decades of letting private sector interests create huge problems in our health care system, we need real reform. THIS REFORM – OR FAILURE OF REFORM – WILL AFFECT US FOR DECADES TO COME.

    September 24, 2009 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  10. LacrosseMom

    45,000 Americans die every year because of lack of healthcare!

    IF 45,000 Americans were dying each year because of terrorist attacks, the GOP would want to nuke the Middle-East!

    However, when 45,000 Americans die from lack of healthcare, not one cry, not one complaint, not one GOP stands up and says NO MORE!

    "Then the righteous will ask him, '..... when did we see you sick....?' The King will answer ' I tell you the truth whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mat. 25:39, 40 NIV)

    September 24, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  11. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I would prefer a limited public option in the exchange that Obama talked about. If everyone had access to the choices that federal employees had (of private insurance companies), there would be less of a problem. The thing is that we don't know how much those plans cost if someone is paying the full amount for them.

    September 24, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. Kent in CA

    4650 TV commercials on one topic? That should be enough to get everyone in Portland to turn off their sets! At the end off this saturation campaign, the whole city will be driven crazy and need state sponsored mental health care.

    September 24, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  13. jerome

    Health Care Reform is dead, Thank the Lord! I voted for Obama but he is wrong on health care reform. I do not want him taking money away from my grandma's Medicare! His numbers don't add up, and all of these commercials pushing for reform are so fake, you would think spending millions of dollars that they would come up with a commercial that actually seems real.

    September 24, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  14. Mojothecat NJ

    Couldn't this money be better used? Like maybe to hire people?

    September 24, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  15. steve

    What a waste of money, the people of america do not want this, and yet we have millions of dollars wasted to try and push an agenda that isn't wanted. I guess Obama can't win everything.

    September 24, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  16. Gary

    While I don't agree with a lot of what the republican party says, I'm very glad that Collins and Snowe are willing to talk and offer ideas as to the health care debate. With these two people, perhaps a ompromise can be worked out.

    September 24, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  17. Pat

    It is strange how people think this is "Insurance Reform". What do you think could possibly be better for insurance companies than mandatory health insurance? Their profit will sky rocket. An oligopoly of the largest providers will form and control the debate in this country for hundreds of years. The goverment has been in control of their "managed care" for decades and look at the results. Governement shouldn't and cannot solve a problem it created.

    September 24, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. rr

    Money can't buy you love, but it can buy you influence and votes

    September 24, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  19. Sea.gem

    Ahhhh...the big money ties of the left show up is called extortion!

    September 24, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  20. Libertarian

    Snowe and Collins, both Repubs, hold onto their seats in Dem-Maine because they are well balanced, thoughtful, and non-partisan. Proof that a MAJORITY of the voters are not extremist wanting to shove their opinion down everyone's throat. More of Congress should look to Maine's representation as a role model.

    September 24, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. victim of republican greed

    Since the cost of my insurance premiums continue to skyrocket, it would be nice to tell the insurance industry to stop spending like a drunken sailor, and put that money into reducing costs.

    Health insurance companies already have a sweet deal, because at age 65, people are usually in the government run program.

    September 24, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  22. G

    No government healthcare! No public option! No government panels! No medicare cuts! No more deficits! No more free stuff for lazy people! So what can we do?


    September 24, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. Phillip Post

    Snowe and Collins need to stand strong against the nationalized health care bill(s) so that Obama can't brag that this disaster-in-waiting is bipartisan.

    September 24, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  24. Chipster

    I'm astonished at Seniors who are alarmed that a public option will lead to Socialism. They wouldn't give up their Social Security and Medicare for anything in the world! Young adults with school age children don't seem to fear public education for their children. Suppose they had to pay for private school? Middle age folks out there – did your college-age children apply for Pell grants or other financial assistance from government programs?

    Are you participating in Socialism? A public option for health care is no different. It's a safety valve for those who otherwise would have no health care. Private schools still flourish. Bank still compete for college savings accounts and loans.

    Democratically elected officials are trying to provide what the majority of Americans elected them to provide. That's Democracy, not Socialism. Don't be manipulated by fear mongers or insurance executives.

    September 24, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    What do you mean ONLY 1.3 million?

    September 24, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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