Dem allies deny they've changed their healthcare reform strategy

Democratic allies on Friday refuted a recent news report that they've shifted their election-year healthcare messaging strategy away from a discussion on cost.

The story, reported Thursday by Politico, argued that healthcare reform proponents "are dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and the deficit and instead stressing a promise to 'improve it.' "

Citing a recent PowerPoint presentation created by the Herndon Alliance — a health advocacy group comprised largely of Democratic backers — Politico's Ben Smith argued that "Democrats are acknowledging the failure of their predictions that the health care legislation would grow more popular after its passage."

Not so, the Herndon Alliance said Friday

"The Politico story … is wrong," the group said in a statement posted on its website. "Our research reaffirms that the more the public hears about the specific reforms in the law, the more they like it. And our research finds that there is a need to cut the political flak and give real information to the public."

The PowerPoint slides — based on recent surveys by Democratic pollsters and delivered Thursday to party allies in a private conference call — urged Democrats touting healthcare reform to voters to "keep claims small … and don't overpromise what the law delivers."  

"Let voters know the healthcare law passed!" the presenters suggested. 

The slides, Smith wrote, represent a concession "that groups typically supportive of Democratic causes — people under 40, non-college-educated women and Hispanic voters — have not been won over by the plan."

Republicans pounced on the news, with the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) pointing to the slides as indication of the Democrats' "dramatic surrender" on healthcare reform.

The Herndon Alliance disagrees.

"Hard-working people are thinking about the economy and just want to know how the law will help them and their families," the group said. "That is what the President and the administration have been doing."

The Alliance is made up of a long list of medical, faith-based and liberal advocacy groups, including MoveOn.org, the Mayo Clinic, AARP and the National Council of La Raza.