Remember when Republican politicians made a living running against Obamacare? It wasn’t that long ago. The rage against the Affordable Care Act contributed to Republicans winning the House and picking up six seats in the Senate in 2010.
But eight years later, the paradigm has shifted.
Now it is the Democrats who are running hard on health care, while Republicans are staying mostly silent on Obamacare. The Wall Street Journal analyzed advertising data from Kantar Media/CMAG, which quantified the shift.
In 2010, nearly one third of Republican political ads targeted the ACA and by 2014 that was up to 44 percent. That same year, 31 percent of Democratic ads mentioned the health care issue.
But as time has passed, more people have become supportive of key elements of Obamacare including expanded Medicaid to cover more low income people and the requirement that insurance companies provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
The Journal reports that so far this election cycle, “nearly 50 percent of Democratic ads mentioned health care. On the Republican side, just 21 percent of messages address the issue.”
Senator Joe Manchin, who is facing a tough re-election fight against Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, has made health care his top issue, and for good reason. A New York Times profile of the health care issue in this race reported that “West Virginia has the highest share of its population covered by Medicaid, 29 percent, including about 160,000 who became eligible in the Medicaid expansion under the law.”
Additionally, the Times reports that about one in three West Virginians has a pre-existing condition.
That focus has created a problem for Morrisey. He has joined 19 other Republican state attorneys general in a lawsuit arguing that Obamacare is unconstitutional because Congress has struck down the provision requiring people to buy insurance.
Morrisey has argued that once the rest of the law is eliminated, Congress can craft an improved law. That may be true, but it’s a tough sell for West Virginians who believe their coverage now is better than it was before. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Manchin and other Democratic candidates are well aware of that, which is why health care dominates their ads and talking points in West Virginia and other races across the country.