(WASHINGTON) — As she seeks to emerge from a crowded Democratic primary field in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Alyson Schwartz is among the first prominent Democrats to take President Obama’s advice and defend the new health care law.
“It’s a major accomplishment of the president’s,” Schwartz told reporters on a call Wednesday. “It is something I think all of us should be proud of.”
In a new television ad that debuted Tuesday, Schwartz not only celebrated the Affordable Care Act, but highlighted her role in passing it.
“I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act and getting health coverage to call Americans,” the ad said.
Schwartz served on the House Ways and Means Committee during the initial construction of the health care legislation, and the ad included photographs of the president and Schwartz together.
“It was my legislation that said insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions,” the ad continues.
This week, Schwartz called on other Democrats, particularly in her race, to “speak up” about the successes of the law and criticized them for “vagueness” on the issue.
“[They should] express their pride and commitment to implementing this law,” she said on the call.
Nationwide and in Pennsylvania, the health care law remains largely unpopular, though public opinion is trending — slowly — in the law’s favor. According to Gallup’s most recent data from earlier this month, 43 percent of Americans now approve of the law, the highest percentage since last October. In addition, the number of respondents who said the law has helped them in their own lives rose to 15 percent, up from 9 percent in November.
According to Schwartz, she hears stories of people “every day on the campaign trail” who have been helped by the law.
More importantly for her campaign right now, Democrats still overwhelming support the law. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from March, 76 percent of Democrats nationwide approve of the law.
With the hope of appealing to Democrat primary voters, the ad will run only in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, both Democratic Party strongholds.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, another Democratic candidate is on the health care offensive. Elisabeth Jensen, who hopes to oust freshman Republican Andy Barr and become the state’s first female Democrat in Congress, released her own radio ad earlier this month attacking Barr for his votes to repeal the law.
Jensen’s ad equated the federal health care law with Kentucky’s own health insurance marketplace, Kynect, one of the most successful state-run marketplaces launched last fall, with 400,000 enrollees, according to the governor.
“I learned congressman Andy Barr voted 19 times to repeal health care reform. I was disappointed,” Jensen’s ad said. “Thanks to Gov. Beshear, Kentucky Kynect provides health care to Kentuckians who had no insurance. But Barr, along with Mitch McConnell, voted to end Kynect and let insurance companies drop coverage, deny care and charge women more.”
An anti-repeal message could be a safe compromise for Democrats still struggling to talk about Obamacare. A Kaiser Family Foundation Poll from March found that only 29 percent of Americans were in favor of repealing the law, including both those that favored repealing and replacing the law with a GOP alternative (18 percent) and repealing the law and not replacing it with new legislation (11 percent).
Another strategy among Democratic candidates has been to attack Republican governors for hampering the law’s implementation. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election, repeatedly has said while campaigning that “the law is not perfect.” But she is also vocal about her support for pending legislation in the state that would obligate Louisiana to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid under the new law, a move the governor so far has rejected.
Similarly, Schwartz’s ad directly criticized incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, who has also chosen not to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania. On the press call, Schwartz said Pennsylvanians are “outraged” that the governor refused the federal funds to expand coverage. In the ad, she promised to reverse that decision.
“As governor I will take the Medicaid expansion, because 500,000 Pennsylvanians need health care coverage,” she said in the ad.
Corbett’s campaign was quick to respond, saying Schwartz had “embraced an extreme liberal agenda.”
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