Democrats close campaign by hammering GOP on health care

Democrats close campaign by hammering GOP on health care

Democrats are pinning their hopes on health care as a winning message in the final days of the midterm campaign, saying they will not be distracted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE's attempts to make the election about immigration.

When Trump this week proposed ending birthright citizenship, House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump MORE (Calif.) responded by hammering Republicans on health care. Meanwhile, the House Democrats' campaign arm recently launched another wave of ads targeting GOP lawmakers for their ObamaCare repeal votes.

"Remember that we close on health care and corruption and they can close with whatever toxic racist stew they want," Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzBottom Line Harris, Schatz have highest percentage of non-white staff among Senate Democrats Democrats celebrate announcement on citizenship census question MORE (D-Hawaii) tweeted on Tuesday.

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While Trump is focusing on immigration issues like birthright citizenship and a “caravan” of migrants making its way to the U.S. border, Democrats say they will not be dragged into a debate that distracts from health-care issues leading up to Election Day.

“Clearly, Republicans will do absolutely anything to divert attention away from their votes to take away Americans’ health care,” Pelosi said on Tuesday.

Democrats have been pounding away at Republicans, highlighting their attempts to dismantle ObamaCare and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. That messaging is a stark change from previous years when the 2010 health law was a liability for Democrats on the campaign trail.

The party can also point to a range of polls showing voters trust them more on health care.

A Fox News poll this month found health care is the top issue for voters, with 58 percent of likely voters in the survey saying it is “extremely” important to their vote; within that group, Democrats have a 24-point lead over Republicans.

And Democrats are getting their health-care message across through campaign ads.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is now running a new round of ads calling out vulnerable House Republicans for voting in favor of repealing ObamaCare last year.

One ad attacking Rep. Peter Roskam Peter James RoskamBlue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try Illinois Dems offer bill to raise SALT deduction cap Illinois New Members 2019 MORE (R-Ill.), in the quintessential suburban district being targeted by Democrats, shows a sick child as a voiceover cites Roskam’s repeated votes to nix ObamaCare and its pre-existing condition protections. “Imagine watching him go without life-saving treatment because it’s been denied by your insurance,” the ad says. “That’s what Peter Roskam voted for. Not just once, but over and over again.”

Similar DCCC ads are targeting GOP lawmakers like Reps. John Faso (N.Y.) and Rod Blum (Iowa). “Blum voted to let insurance companies gut protections” for pre-existing conditions, one ad says.

“I think the focus on health care is a smart thing because Donald Trump’s racist attacks on immigration are getting an enormous amount of play in the media, where health care is not,” said Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist. “I think health care is the key message that cuts across our persuadable audience as well as our base.”

Democrats are also focused on drawing attention to House Republicans who voted last year for the GOP repeal-and-replace bill known as the American Health Care Act.

That measure would have let states get waivers for insurers to sell plans that allow higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, a provision at the center of Democratic attacks.

Republicans have pushed back on those attacks by arguing the provision was narrower than it’s being portrayed, and that people could be charged more for a pre-existing condition only if their state chose to get a waiver and if they were uninsured for more than 63 days.

“This very narrow provision, under a hypothetical scenario, does not at all resemble the horrible ‘throw individuals with pre-existing conditions to the wolves’ attack my opponent has been spreading to scare people,” Roskam’s campaign told The Hill.

Blum’s campaign pointed to a fact check from The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which found that “under narrow circumstances, people with existing conditions could have seen an increase in premiums.”

The Democratic focus on health care also extends to red states that voted for Trump by double digits in 2016.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Feds allow campaigns to accept discounted cybersecurity services GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (D-Mo.), in an interview with Fox News on Monday, said she “100 percent” supports Trump’s efforts to stop the caravan at the border, but she also hit her GOP challenger, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, for backing a lawsuit that seeks to overturn ObamaCare and its pre-existing condition protections.

“Josh Hawley is marching into court, trying to score a political point without thinking of the consequences to Missourians about all of their protections going away with no backup,” McCaskill said.

Hawley says he has no regrets about supporting that lawsuit, and says he wants to force insurers to cover pre-existing conditions without ObamaCare. He does not support related ObamaCare provisions, though, like requiring insurers to cover a range of health services like mental health and prescription drugs, which helps ensure insurance companies cannot exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Hawley calls those rules “one-size-fits-all dictates from Washington” that drive up costs.

Another vulnerable red state Democrat, Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh MORE (N.D.), wrote an op-ed in The Bismarck Tribune on Sunday making her “closing argument” on health care, noting that Trump privately called the House repeal bill “mean.” Her GOP opponent, Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTrump puts hopes for Fed revolution on unconventional candidate Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE, voted for that measure.

“President Donald Trump even referred to one of Cramer’s health care repeal bills as ‘mean’ because the bill gutted protections for North Dakotans with preexisting conditions,” Heitkamp wrote.

Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist, said Trump’s immigration messages this week are a sign he is desperate and that Republicans know they are losing on health care.

“You don’t throw a Hail Mary pass if you’re up by a few touchdowns,” he said.