Pelosi: Health reform will be an advantage for Dems in election

The healthcare reform bill passed into law earlier this year is "definitely an advantage" to Democrats at the polls this fall, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asserted.

Pelosi, who helped shepherd the legislation through the House earlier this year, expressed confidence that the bill would be an asset to Democrats in the next 41 days before the midterm congressional elections.

"It is definitely an advantage for us, because we have aligned ourselves with those who passed Social Security, Medicare and now healthcare for all Americans, not as a right, but a privilege," Pelosi said in an interview aired Tuesday evening on NPR to mark the six-month anniversary of the reform bill becoming law.

Republicans have made the healthcare bill a centerpiece of their election-year messaging, promising to repeal parts or all of the legislation and replace it with different reform.

Some Democrats, for their part, have grown more wary of the law and focused their messaging on the economy and jobs. One vulnerable incumbent, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a supporter of the bill, suggested that the focus on healthcare might have been a "distraction." Another centrist Democrat, Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.), became the first member of his party to join with Republicans to back repealing the legislation.

When it comes to repeal, Democrats have used the GOP pledge to "repeal and replace" as a cudgel against Republican incumbents and candidates by highlighting popular reforms in the bill that would be threatened by a repeal.

Pelosi conceded that Republicans might have done a better job, at times, of setting the message about the bill, but said Democrats would be strengthened by running with the legislation.

"So some aspects of the bill are popular with the public. The Republicans, always the handmaidens of the special interests, have long beat the drum about what this bill is not about, and we have not made up that part of the debate," she said. "But we are proud of it, and our members gain strength from their support of it. We think it will be a very positive factor in the election."

But polls show the public is still very mixed about the legislation. The Kaiser Health Foundation, which has tracked public opinion about the law, found that opposition to it had ticked upward by the end of August. Forty-five percent of Americans now have an unfavorable opinion of the legislation, the poll found, while 43 percent have a favorable view of the law.