In late March, President Obama hailed the new healthcare reform legislation as an answer to "the call of history," and headlines tied the word "historic" to its passage. Little more than half a year later, it seems that for most Democratic candidates, talk of healthcare reform is almost, well, history.
With voters ranking jobs and the economy as their top concerns, only a handful out of the hundreds of Democratic House candidates have gone on the offensive using healthcare reform. Only one senator has used it as a major campaign plank. Republican attacks on the measure have been common, however, as the GOP frames its opponents' support of healthcare reform as yet another vote with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and big government. Democrats see a problem with the party's message rather than the legislation itself. "We made a mistake by spending a year talking about healthcare instead of jobs," says a congressional Democrat who asked not to be identified further. "Had we focused on job creation, and then healthcare, the environment would be different."
The White House has attempted in recent weeks to point out the bill's economic benefits, including measures implemented on the six-month anniversary of its passage, such as guaranteed coverage for preventive services. And the administration has spent roughly $3 million in television ads promoting the law, Politico reported Friday. "Anybody who's out there who's concerned about the deficit, the single biggest driver of our deficit is the ever-escalating cost of healthcare," Obama said last month. "So we said we had to take this on."
But with more than half of likely voters siding with Republicans in support of the law's repeal, as indicated by a Rasmussen poll released Monday, most Democrats are wary of bringing it up with constituents. According to top national campaign strategists, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold and Reps. Steve Israel and Scott Murphy of New York, Dina Titus of Nevada, and Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota are the only Democratic incumbents running ads focused on their support of healthcare reform.
Israel, who has a safe race in New York's Second District, says he doesn't understand why more members of his party aren't spending more time discussing health reforms. "Democrats ought to be proud of the fact that we are providing consumer protections and siding with our constituents instead of insurance profits," he says. "The Republicans have been lying, and I'm calling them out."
- Check out our editorial cartoons on healthcare.
- See a slide show of 10 things that are (and aren't) in the healthcare bill.
- See which members of Congress get the most from health professionals.