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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Obama Should Use PSA’s, Govt Media to Educate Public About HCR

CNN Senior Political Editor Mark Preston has a post up at CNN.com’s ‘Political Ticker,’ reporting on the Republicans’ campaign to sink Democratic midterm candidates by linking them to ‘Obamacare.” Preston notes that Democratic candidates are treating the GOP effort as a distraction, trying to refocus voters on economic issues, which the Republicans generally ignore, lacking any alternatives, other than offering tax and spending cuts as a panacea. Preston highlights the spending behind the GOP propaganda campaign:

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…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.
“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 Republicans may be wasting their money. Recent Polls indicate that the health care issue now ranks well behind the economy among voters priorities. And, as TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira recently noted in his ‘Public Opinion Snapshot’ post,

On the health care reform law, the most recent Kaiser Health tracking poll now has 50 percent voicing a favorable reaction to the new law, versus just 35 percent unfavorable. This reverses a 44-41 unfavorable verdict from two months ago.

In addition, other polls indicate that many who disapprove of the Affordable Health Care Act wanted the coverage to be broader, with a greater investment and role for the federal government, and they are not likely to be receptive to the Republicans effort to gut the legislation entirely.
Sure, it’s possible that the GOP could do some damage with their ads. But it may not be a cost-effective investment, or to use an Econ 101 analysis, the opportunity cost of not investing the dough in promoting their competitive candidates could be substantial.
Democrats ought not invest too much of their midterm financial resources, nor media face time, in defending the health care Act. But it would be a perfectly legitimate investment for the federal government, particularly HHS, to produce and distribute public service ads and interviews with experts on the legislation for television, radio, print media and the internet debunking the distortions being promulgated about the Act and explaining why is a good law. This is not pending legislation; it’s the law of the land, and the federal government not only has the right to explain the Health Care Reform Act to the public; it has a duty to do so. This law can save countless lives and help millions of people with their health care struggles, and the government has an obligation to help citizens understand it better. And, as Teixeira explains, concerning the findings of another Kaiser Health tracking poll back in the Spring,

…As the poll shows, the public does not currently believe they have enough information about the new law to clearly understand how it will affect them personally. Just 43 percent say they now have enough information to make this judgment, compared to 56 percent who say they don’t. Thus, more information could presumably make a difference to current feelings about the Affordable Health Care Act.

Yes the GOP would whine and howl about using government resources for what they believe to be a partisan cause. Tough. And yes, Republican-friendly media probably wouldn’t take the Affordable Health Care Act PSA’s or interviews, but many stations would, as might PBS and NPR. It would be a shame, bordering on political negligence, if the Administration failed to seize this opportunity. This is one of those times when it might be useful to ask WWFDRD — “What would FDR do?”

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