August 20th, 2010
10:10 AM ET
13 years ago

Republicans making health care bill a midterm wedge issue

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."

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    The party of NO and hypocrital family values. I don't believe when they say the sky is blue (which, in reality it isn't).

    August 20, 2010 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  2. bernice

    We are a GREEDY country..DOG EAT DOG!!! Republicans have one agenda..
    Keep 'em uneducated or else we're finished..Wake up Americans..
    When I think of "RED" my 1st thoughts is HELL=repubs.. Keep following them...
    When I think of "BLUE" my 1st thoughts is the "SKY"& "Heaven"=Democrates ..GO O'BAMA..I support 100%...

    August 20, 2010 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  3. Clwyd

    Republicans do not have the interests of Middle and Lower Class Americans in mind or heart. They are for the rich, the big corporations, big business and Wall Street! How can Americans be so blind as to believe them? Too many lies from watching too much of the news from FOX I guess. The 1 million dollar parent companies contribution to the Republicans Governors Conference should show how "Fair and Balanced" they are?

    August 20, 2010 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  4. hobart

    It's pretty clear that the single most unpopular item in the health care plan is the mandate that everyone obtain it. Remove that, and I think that most of the resistance goes away.

    August 20, 2010 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  5. opus512

    All the GOP has is wedge issues. All they do is stand opposed, they offer nothing. That is their political strategy.

    August 20, 2010 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  6. Steve- Illinois

    "Democratic strategists are counseling their candidates to talk about issues other than health care on the campaign trail,"

    How can that be? Wasn't this the greatest accomplishment for the American people in 100 years? Remember the comment by Biden, " This is f@#$%^& huge!"

    This bill is garbage and a majority of Americans know it!
    This administration and the Democratic majority in the House and Senate, spent months portraying insurance companies as the "greedy, evil, ones amongst us."

    Then they pass a health care bill that does nothing to control health care costs, and hands those "greedy" insurance companies 30 million additional customers. Forcing all Americans to buy a product, whether you want it, or not!

    Now they are being advised NOT to tout their greatest accomplishment!

    Common sense has escaped our government representatives!
    Career politicians must be voted out!

    August 20, 2010 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  7. Willy Brown

    The democrats bill is nothing but a huge pay off for the Unions

    August 20, 2010 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  8. 4merRepubCT

    Gee, $24 million could provide health care for alot of people! Instead, the Repubs have spent it to argue that people with pre-existing conditions should be denied fair and affordable access to healthcare. Do the ads also target Medicare [another federal healthcare program]?

    August 20, 2010 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  9. Fed Up

    Health care is unpopular because they did it wrong. That's ok though, they shoved it down our throats anyway. Now it's our turn to let them know about it by voting. Vote 'em in. Vote 'em out.

    August 20, 2010 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  10. Glen71

    Yes Republicans, providing those without Healthcare access is such horrible thing!!!!!!! The poll is flawed also because the left doesn't feel enough was done with it. So the high unfavorable uis not just because everyone is against, only the minority G-NO-Pers are!

    August 20, 2010 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  11. Lib Hunter

    Vote for me!! Im a Democrat, but Im really not!!! The Party of Imam Obama is going to get decimated come November. Count On It.

    August 20, 2010 08:28 am at 8:28 am |