Republican congressional candidates and outside groups have seized upon the opportunity to brand Democrats as tax hikers in the wake of Thursday’s Obamacare ruling.
American Commitment, a free market advocacy group, released an ad condemning Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) for driving up spending less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court upheld the Obama administration’s chief legislative achievement.
"He was the deciding vote for the president’s healthcare law," the ad said. "Tell Sherrod Brown to oppose wasteful spending."
Brown has a 10-point lead over Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel, according to Real Clear Politics. But the healthcare bill is wildly unpopular in the key swing state.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that 51 percent of Ohio residents wanted the Supreme Court to overturn the bill compared to 37 percent supporting it. Last year, the state’s voters approved an amendment to the Ohio Constitution banning the mandate that all Americans must purchase health insurance, a measure that won majorities in all 88 counties, including Democratic strongholds in Cleveland.
The Supreme Court ruling came just one day after another Quinnipiac poll found the president leading in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania by margins as high as 9 percent after running even with Mitt Romney in May.
Conservative groups hope to halt that momentum by stressing the tax-increasing elements of Obamacare. Voters in Florida and Pennsylvania disapprove of Obamacare at similar rates to Ohio. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is using the nationwide disapproval of the law to target swing states in an ad titled, "Not a Tax Increase?."
"President Obama promised us that his health care law ‘is absolutely not a tax increase,’" the ad says, splicing the president’s own assurances that the mandate was not a tax into the 30-second spot. "Now we know that’s not true—Obama’s healthcare law is actually one of the largest tax increases in history … how can we afford this tax—we’re already struggling?"
AFP is spending $9 million to push the ad in those swing states, along with Colorado Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Opposition could grow further after the court ruled that Obama’s signature legislation was a $500 billion tax hike, despite the president’s assurance to Americans that he would not increase taxes on those earning less than $250,000. Middle class earners are expected to bear 75 percent of those costs, according to Stephen Moore, senior economics writer at the Wall Street Journal.
Republican officials rained on Obama’s healthcare parade almost immediately. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham laid out the strategy in the hours following the ruling, telling Fox News that the GOP would use it to either force Democrats to support the repeal movement in Washington or defend the tax hikes to their constituents on the campaign trail.
"Every Democrat who voted for this bill should be labeled as a massive tax increase member of Congress or repeal the bill—they can’t have it both ways," he said on Thursday.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the healthcare law in January 2011, though the bill died in the Democratic Senate. GOP lawmakers are hoping that the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law constitutes a major tax increase will bring embattled Democrats across the aisle.
Republican campaign officials are counting on Democrats to maintain their support of President Obama.
The National Republican Congressional Campaign released an ad targeting Santa Barbara Rep. Lois Capps (D., Calif.). The ad features two sisters exchanging online messages:
S2: Our family premium just went up.
S1: Yours too?! Time to repeal this mess.
S2: Can our Congresswoman do it?
S1: HA! Capps wants to keep the whole %^#* thing.
S2: Can we repeal Capps????
S1: November 6th 🙂
"Lois Capps thinks that government can control the healthcare choices of Californians better than they can themselves, and voters will have the final say in November," said NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek in a release.
Many Democrats distanced themselves from the president in the days leading up to the ruling.
On June 18, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin became the first prominent Democrat to announce that he would skip Obama’s Labor Day re-nomination ceremony. He was soon joined by Montana Sen. Jon Tester, Reps. Mark Critz (D,. Penn), Jim Matheson (D., Utah) and Nick Rahall (D., W.Va.), as well as by former Ohio Congressman Charlie Wilson. Sen. Claire McCaskill added her name to the list of no shows two days before the Obamacare decision, citing a desire to connect with voters.
Other Democrats said bearhugging the legislation is the appropriate course of action.
"I think we should tie [Obamacare] to the fact that we need to create jobs and expand opportunity," Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told CBS Face the Nation on Sunday. "One of the key things that kept us from being economically competitive was that instead of businesses being able to invest in job creation and plant upgrades, they had to just throw away more and more money on rising health care costs."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chose to go on the attack rather than defend the bill. It released a series of robocalls slamming Republicans for opposing popular aspects of the law, such as coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, without once mentioning Obama or "healthcare reform."
The ads, aimed at GOP incumbents in 10 Democratic districts, accuse Republicans of "looking out for … the big insurance corporations that fund his campaign, not the middle class."
Sen. Brown is not backing down from his support of Obamacare and hopes to focus the campaign on jobs, according to spokesman Justin Barasky.
"Certainly Sen. Brown in the wake of the Supreme Court decision would not have switched his vote…he’s not going to run away from anything," he said. "We expect [Mandel] to continue to focus on a debate from three years ago, but we’re fighting to bring jobs back into the state."
Barasky said this is good politics.
"The healthcare bill as a whole may not be popular in Ohio, but if you look at the individual provisions—letting students stay on their parents’ health insurance plans while they’re looking for their first job, allowing people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, not letting insurance companies drop you when you’re sick—those are all popular in Ohio," he said.
The DCCC did not return requests for comment.