House Republicans zero in on ObamaCare

The House GOP’s campaign arm has aired more ads attacking ObamaCare than any other issue, though it remains just one piece of the party’s strategy to boost its margin in Tuesday’s election.

About one-third of the 130 television ads aired by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) this cycle have focused on ObamaCare, the group said Monday.

That is only slightly more than the 30 percent of ads that targeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The rest were split among issues, like spending, debt and immigration, and President Obama himself.

The GOP’s advertising strategy reflects its broader effort to lift the profile of the highly unpopular healthcare law among midterm voters, even as it largely stayed out of the headlines in recent months.

NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato maintains that ObamaCare is one of the most important campaign issues in 2014, which marks the first election since the law went into effect for millions.

“Now, it’s not an abstract for people,” Scarpinato told The Hill. “They’ve seen the problems with the website. They’ve seen their plans change. There are now specifics to talk about.”

The GOP’s attacks on ObamaCare have focused on premium hikes, cuts to the Medicare program and taxpayer-funded abortions. Nearly all of the ads also sought to associate Democratic candidates with the president’s overall agenda.

About a quarter of the GOP’s ObamaCare ads were aired in Florida. Most of those targeted Florida's Second District, where there is a close contest between incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and Democratic challenger Gwen Graham that’s already cost $12.8 million.

Eight ads aired in Arizona, largely aimed at unseating Democratic Rep. Ron BarberRonald (Ron) Sylvester BarberKavanaugh nomination a make or break moment to repeal Citizens United Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Principles and actions mean more than Jeff Flake’s words MORE as he faces Republican Martha McSally in a Second District rematch.

The NRCC has spent nearly $25 million this year — about $5 million less than what has been spent by the House Democrats’ campaign committee, according to a report last month by the Sunlight Foundation.

Both parties, as well as outside groups, have spent big on political ads related to healthcare, with more than $300 million committed in 2014 alone. But ObamaCare has played a far lesser role than previously expected.

Just 14 percent of ads since January have specifically mentioned Obama's signature healthcare law, according to a report last week by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly all were attacks by Republicans.

One year ago, the NRCC predicted the president’s healthcare law would dominate the elections and singlehandedly doom the Democrats.

“ObamaCare remains at the top of the American people’s concerns. ... Certainly, other issues may rise and fall — but ObamaCare is the constant that runs through this election," NRCC Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.) wrote in a memo.

Scott Rasmussen, a public opinion analyst who founded the right-leaning polling firm Rasmussen Reports, maintains that ObamaCare continues to be the biggest issue for Obama and for Democrats in 2014.

“While there’s lots of other issues out there, that is still the defining issue for this president,” Rasmussen said in an interview Monday with The Daily Signal. “It’s driving them to the polls.”