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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will Huge Ad Buy, Media War Stop HCR?

A coalition of corporate groups will spend between 4 and 10 million dollars in the weeks ahead to stop the Democratic health care reform package. As John D. McKinnon and Brody Williams explain in their Wall St. Journal article this morning,

The business coalition, Employers for a Healthy Economy, said it would run between $4 million and $10 million of ads targeting the districts of several dozen Democratic lawmakers, carrying the message that the bill would cause job losses. The ads are being funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade associations that represent a broad swath of industry, from health insurers and manufacturers to construction, retail and distribution companies.
The burst of TV advertising adds to the total of more than $200 million spent on ads last year, making the health-care debate the largest single advocacy campaign ever, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks issue advertising. Both sides in the debate spent about equally on ads last year, according to Evan Tracey, the nonpartisan group’s president.

Sobering numbers for health care reform supporters. Their opponents plan to flood the airwaves with attacks against reform. And the ads will be targeted, as the authors report:

One group opposing the legislation, Americans for Prosperity, is targeting about 21 House districts around the country with $350,000 in TV and radio ads, as well as with rallies at lawmakers’ district offices. Still another conservative group, the American Future Fund, said this week it had launched TV ads targeting 18 congressional districts.

Unions, Health Care for America Now, the AARP and other pro-reform groups will struggle to match that investment, which may end up being substantially more than $10 million, if my hunch is right. That’s quite a change from last summer when insurers were running ads supporting bipartisan reform.
Next week tea party organizers plan to flood the halls of Congress with 1,000 protestors, no doubt attracting 24-7 coverage from Fox TV, wingnut radio and whatever msm outlets get hustled into providing over-coverage. It would be good if progressive supporters of HCR were ready with an impressive counter-protest, bearing signs with messages like the three in TDS’s “Noteworthy” box above, plus some version of E. J. Dionne’s soundbite, like “Don’t let a phony argument about process derail needed reform.” Also needed are messages and creative ads making a positive pitch about the good changes reforms will secure.
Of course the quality of the ad campaigns may determine their impact, as much or more than money and saturation. Democrats have the advantage of reasonable policy, but Republicans have the edge in message discipline and air wave media resources. It will require some creative media strategy to neutralize the GOP media campaign over the next two weeks. This DNC ad is an excellent start.

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