It's campaign season and reform law backing is tepid
Some congressional Democrats have blamed their historic 2010 losses on their lack of campaigning on the healthcare law—enacted with only Democratic support. But in recent months, other congressional Democrats have publicly urged their colleagues facing re-election this year to avoid a repeat of that mistake by aggressively campaigning on the law.
One senior Democrat not urging congressional Democrats to tout the law's many popular provisions is one of its primary authors.
I recently asked Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, if Democrats should be running on the healthcare law—his law—in this election.
“That's up to each candidate; up to each senator,” he said in a brief interview. “My personal belief—I can only speak for myself—I stoutly defend it and I think the court's going to approve it.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, from blue as the sky Maryland, told me Democrats should campaign on the law and he mentions its many positive features every chance he gets.
But what about other red state Democrats?
Heidi Heitkamp, a Democratic Senate candidate from North Dakota, is running in a red state against the state's only congressman, Republican Rick Berg. Support for the healthcare overhaul is even weaker in North Dakota than the law's underwater support nationally. Despite that, Heitkamp released a video earlier this week at least partially praising the law:
“I'm Heidi Heitkamp and 12 years ago I beat breast cancer. When you live through that, political attack ads seem silly. I would never vote to take away a senior's healthcare or limit anyone's care. There's good and bad in the healthcare law and it needs to be fixed. But Rick Berg voted to go back, to letting insurance companies deny coverage to kids or for pre-existing conditions. I approved this message because I don't ever want to go back to those days.”
OK, so it's a pretty lukewarm endorsement of the law and her campaign wouldn't respond as to which are the “bad” aspects of the law that she'd want to toss. But her ad is still more supportive than many moderate Democrats tried in 2010. So is it a sign of things to come in campaign 2012? We'll see.
Follow Rich Daly on Twitter @MHRDaly.