Health care reform and the election, pt. 2: Dems' strategies

By Lauren McNitt


In the final days of the campaign, polls indicate Democrats and the health care reform legislation are losing support. In an attempt to salvage votes, Democratic candidates are employing new strategies regarding the historic health care bill they enacted.

Ignore it:
A number of Democratic candidates are remaining silent on the issue of health care reform. But will ignoring one of the most controversial issues in politics this year win them more votes?

An NPR article addresses the issue:
    Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster and president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, says he's not that surprised at the relative dearth of Democrats talking health this fall. "I think the controversy over the health care reform law has made a lot of Democrats nervous and gun-shy, and probably more than they ought to be," he says. "There are some people who don't even want to raise the topic of health care for fear of getting into a debate over the health care law."

    But Garin says Democrats may be backing off too much.

    "There are some aspects of that law that the voters really support and don't want to ... have taken away from them," he says. For example, "the provisions relating to pre-existing conditions coverage or preventive care or additional help for seniors with their prescription coverage. Those are good debates to be in if you're a Democrat over those kinds of issues."
An Economist columnist also thinks the strategy of silence is risky. The writer finds the strategy to be cowardly, and believes it could end up helping the GOP:
    The trouble with that way of thinking is that it leaves the Republicans free to paint health reform in the most negative possible light. Worse, it suggests that Mr Obama and his party lack the courage of their rather expensive convictions. If the Democrats are too nervous to defend the bill, perhaps they shouldn't have passed it.
Fix it:
Other Democrats are taking Garin’s advice. They are acknowledging the bill isn’t perfect, but they reject the Republican's message of repeal and replace. Instead, they are addressing unpopular provisions of the bill and promising to change them.

A Politico article sums up the strategy:
    Nervous Democrats are grasping for a new message on their party’s health reform bill: Give us another shot, and we’ll get it right this time.
Some Democratic leaders are criticizing candidates who use this message, saying this approach is a way of distancing themselves from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, according to the Politico article, an unnamed Democratic leadership aide agrees with Garin that this strategy is more viable.
    The same aide, however, warned against interpreting the new messages as a signal of distancing, insisting that any large piece of legislation will have its share of fixes and tweaks along the way.

    “Are there things that we’re going to find out need to be tweaked or strengthened? That’s the way every bill is,” the aide said. “I think we can’t fall into this trap of regurgitating Republican talking points. Democrats need to be more responsible on the issue.”

This blog is the second part in a series. For a discussion on GOP strategies, read: Health care reform and the election, Pt. 1: GOP strategies.