Washington (CNN) – For years, the Democratic Party's pledge to overhaul the nation's health care system was a main political talking point, a promise that was fulfilled earlier this year.
But the legislative win in March has not translated into political capital for Democrats as a majority of Americans, 56 percent, oppose the health care bill, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Friday morning.
And while Democratic strategists are counseling their candidates to talk about issues other than health care on the campaign trail, Republicans have been sharpening their focus on that very subject.
A new analysis by Campaign Media Analysis Group for CNN shows that federal and state political candidates have spent $24 million on anti-health care reform television commercials since Congress passed the bill in late March. Over the past 30 days alone, more than $6 million has been spent on TV ads attacking the law, and there is no sign these commercials are going away.
"Based on the advertising and messaging, this is clearly being used by Republicans as a wedge issue," said Evan Tracey, president of CMAG and CNN's consultant on political TV ad spending. "The GOP is using the passage of the bill against Democrats in a growing proportion at both the state and federal level."
In contrast, the CMAG analysis shows that $6.3 million has been spent on pro-health care reform TV ads since Congress approved the legislation.
The 2010 anti-health care reform campaign is similar to the effort made 16 years ago when Republicans emphasized then-first lady Hillary Clinton's role in her husband's failed attempt at health care reform.
Of the $24 million spent so far criticizing the health care law, Republicans have run $11.3 million worth of commercials where the term "Obamacare" is used – a not so subtle attempt to link Democratic candidates to a president who suffers from a disapproval rating of 51 percent.
"In 1994, Republicans used the moniker 'Hillarycare' as a way to retake the House," said Tracey. "And clearly the GOP is trying to replicate this because more and more we are seeing the healthcare bill referred to as 'Obamacare.'"
With President Obama's approval rating below 50 percent, and voter anger boiling over across the country, Democratic candidates are being instructed to promote their independence from the party, and from Capitol Hill.
"This is a year when a candidate shouldn't run as a defender of Washington," said one Democratic campaign strategist, who would only speak freely on the condition of anonymity when discussing the challenges facing the party.
Another high level Democratic strategist, also involved in the 2010 midterm elections, was blunter when describing what candidates need to be talking about on the campaign trail.
"The top 10 issues are jobs, jobs, jobs and the economy," the Democrat said. When it was pointed out to this Democratic strategist that the list only contained four issues and three of them were 'jobs,' the strategist matter-of-factly responded, "It repeats."