Democrats rely on anti-Oba­macare push to hurt Re­pub­li­cans.

Par­ties be­gin strate­gies for 2018

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Democrats are count­ing on the GOP’s anti-Oba­macare push to wound Re­pub­li­cans head­ing into the 2018 elec­tions, hop­ing to res­cue them­selves for what should oth­er­wise be a very bad year at the polls for Se­nate Democrats.

Al­ready in the mi­nor­ity, Democrats must de­fend 25 Se­nate seats in next year’s cy­cle com­pared to just nine for the GOP — and many of those de­fenses come in states that Pres­i­dent Trump eas­ily won last year, such as In­di­ana, Mon­tana, Mis­souri, North Dakota and West Vir­ginia.

House Re­pub­li­cans are eye­ing runs at sev­eral of those states, but Democrats say vot­ers won’t take kindly to those GOP law­mak­ers’ sup­port for the House Oba­macare re­peal bill, which would scrap the 2010 health law but re­sult in an es­ti­mated 23 mil­lion fewer Amer­i­cans hold­ing in­sur­ance a decade from now.

“Mem­bers of the House who have an­nounced or are eye­ing Se­nate bids … all voted for the plan and are uniquely vul­ner­a­ble,” the Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee said in a re­cent strat­egy memo.

The DSCC has also been run­ning ads against po­ten­tial chal­lengers since early May, say­ing their sup­port for the House plan will force con­stituents to pay thou­sands more for drug treat­ment and ma­ter­nity care.

Democrats high­lighted nine House Re­pub­li­cans who could en­ter Se­nate races in sev­eral red states and Penn­syl­va­nia, a swing state where Demo­cratic Sen. Bob Casey faces re­elec­tion.

Democrats also say Rep. Fred Up­ton, Michi­gan Re­pub­li­can, will face “spe­cial li­a­bil­i­ties” for his role in nudg­ing the House bill over the fin­ish line with $8 bil­lion to sub­si­dize sicker Amer­i­cans who could face higher costs, should he chal­lenge Demo­cratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Re­pub­li­cans, though, say they hope vot­ers will re­ward their can­di­dates for liv­ing up to their cam­paign prom­ise to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“I think a lot of peo­ple in these states, ones that went hard for Trump, are tired of the fact that no mat­ter who you vote for, noth­ing gets done,” GOP strate­gist Ford O’Con­nell said. “They were try­ing to show back­bone and move the ball for­ward, so I don’t see how they won’t get re­warded.”

The House ap­proved its health plan, 217-213, brush­ing aside taunts from Democrats on the House floor. Some Democrats even waved good­bye to their GOP col­leagues, pre­dict­ing mas­sive losses.

It’s the re­verse of what hap­pened in 2010, when vot­ers pun­ished House Democrats for pass­ing Oba­macare and sev­eral other un­pop­u­lar pieces of leg­is­la­tion, de­liv­er­ing con­trol of the cham­ber to the GOP.

Re­cent polling sug­gests Oba­macare is now pop­u­lar, though, and only 8 per­cent of the pub­lic wants Congress to give fi­nal ap­proval to the House bill as-is, ac­cord­ing to the non­par­ti­san Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.

Even be­fore the House vote, Democrats used web ads to tar­get Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita of In­di­ana for voic­ing sup­port for the emerg­ing re­peal plan, as they plot Se­nate bids against Demo­cratic Sen. Joe Don­nelly.

Rokita spokesman Tim Ed­son said the con­gress­man would be happy to make the Se­nate race a ref­er­en­dum on health care, should he mount a chal­lenge.

“Have the delu­sional lib­er­als at the DSCC set foot out­side their elite D.C. bub­ble in the past eight years?” Mr. Ed­son said. “Oba­maCare has nearly de­stroyed the Demo­cratic Party from the fed­eral to the lo­cal level.”

The DSCC also re­cently tar­geted Rep. Evan Jenk­ins — a West Vir­ginia Re­pub­li­can who last month launched a bid to top­ple Demo­cratic Sen. Joe Manchin III — with an ad say­ing the House GOP bill will make sub­stance abuse treat­ment less af­ford­able.

The ad also tar­geted Rep. Alex Mooney, another Re­pub­li­can thought to be mulling a chal­lenge to Mr. Manchin, as West Vir­ginia reels from the heroin and pre­scrip­tion painkiller epi­demic.

But Mooney spokesman Ted Dacey said Democrats are “wast­ing time at­tack­ing some­one who isn’t run­ning for U.S. Se­nate in 2018.”

Sim­i­lar ads take aim at Reps. Ann Wag­ner and Vicki Hart­zler, Mis­souri Re­pub­li­cans who could take on Sen. Claire McCaskill; Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Re­pub­li­can eye­ing a chal­lenge against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp; and Reps. Mike Kelly and Lou Bar­letta of Penn­syl­va­nia, who could vie with Mr. Casey.

A spokesman for Mr. Bar­letta said he re­mains com­mit­ted to re­plac­ing Oba­macare with a bet­ter plan, while an aide for Mr. Kelly said he “would have no prob­lem run­ning on keep­ing his prom­ise to re­place a failed law that is hurt­ing Penn­syl­va­ni­ans.”

Re­pub­li­cans also say Democrats are get­ting ahead of them­selves. The midterms are roughly 18 months away, and the GOP-led Congress is still try­ing to put a re­peal bill Mr. Trump’s desk.

“Democrats would love to use the health care vote as a blunt ob­ject,” Mr. O’Con­nell said, “but it’s very hard to do it when you don’t have a health care bill.”

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