Manchin now touting benefits of healthcare reform

What a difference a week can make.

Eight days ago, Gov. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), the Democrat in a surprisingly tough contest to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), launched an ad distancing himself from both the White House and its new healthcare reform law. 

"I'll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our backs and out of our pockets," Manchin says in the TV spot. "I'll cut federal spending, and I'll repeal the bad parts of ObamaCare."  

Fast forward to this week, and Manchin is out with a new ad that blasts GOP candidate John Raese for opposing one of the central benefits of the healthcare reform law: the prohibition on denying coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions.

"One out of every four West Virginians under the age of 65 suffers from a pre-existing medical condition such as heart disease, cancer or asthma," the narrator says in the new radio spot.

The ad then switches to a recording of Raese saying, "I don't believe that insurance companies be mandated to handle pre-existing conditions." 

The narrator again: "And that's OK for John Raese, who lives in a Palm Beach, Fla., mansion with a pink marble driveway, but it's not OK for the rest of us who work to pay our bills and struggle to afford insurance."

The message is hardly unique to Manchin this campaign season — there's a long list of candidates (mostly Republicans) who say they want to repeal the controversial provisions of the healthcare law and replace them with different reforms. 

The big question they have yet to answer: How to get rid of the unpopular elements of the bill (e.g., the individual insurance mandate) and still keep the popular reforms (like the pre-existing conditions provision), which are inextricably linked to each other? 

The Hill called Manchin's office every day last week to learn what "the bad parts of ObamaCare" are. The office has yet to respond.