GOP’s ads seek to cast doubt on health reform
By JEREMY W. PETERS
The New York Times | July 07,2013
WASHINGTON — Although many of its rules will not take effect for months, President Barack Obama’s health care law is already the subject of an aggressive advertising campaign by Republicans to sow doubts about how it will work.
In one of the largest campaigns of its kind, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group financed by Charles and David Koch, will begin running television commercials this week, asserting that the law would limit Americans’ health care choices.
The group is spending more than $1 million on the campaign, which will initially include television advertising in Ohio and Virginia, along with online ads asking people to test their “Obamacare risk factors.”
Republicans have staked much of their near-term political success on the bet that the health care overhaul will be unpopular with Americans as it is implemented in a process that they have warned will be chaotic and frustrating. Many Republicans in Congress have said they would push to repeal the law.
So far, the persistent criticism of the law has served the party well with its base. Now, Republicans hope it will resonate with swing voters the party needs to recover from its losses last year.
In a significant strategic shift, Americans for Prosperity is carefully aiming its new campaign at one of those voting blocs: young women.
“How do I know my family is going to get the care they need?” asks a young mother of two who stars in a commercial, the first in a series that Americans for Prosperity plans to expand to as many as seven states. “Can I really trust the folks in Washington with my family’s health care?”
The ads will be broadcast on cable and network television during programs popular with women such as the Food Network cooking competition “Chopped,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Good Morning America.” Obama’s political group, Organizing for Action, started running ads of its own last month that promote the law’s benefits.
For months, Republicans have been sounding the alarm over impending job cuts by small-business owners, who say they will cut back on workers to avoid having to provide health insurance.
And when the White House said last week that it would delay until 2015 the requirement that employers with more than 50 full-time workers provide their employees with health insurance, many conservatives immediately seized on the announcement as a sign that the law was already proving unmanageable.
The delay, announced after Americans for Prosperity had produced its ads, sent the group’s strategists back to the drawing board.
They are now testing messages based on the idea that even the Obama administration acknowledges that the law is flawed.
“We think that, once we incorporate the new bullet points about how the president is already delaying key aspects of the law, it will be even more effective,” said Tim Phillips, the group’s president.
Conservatives see the fight over the health care law as the defining political debate of the day. They believe it presents them with a rare opportunity to call the president’s leadership into question and raise doubts about the effects of his signature domestic policy achievement.
When Americans for Prosperity wrote the script for its new campaign, which Phillips described as an effort to “start softening the ground” ahead of the health care law’s implementation, the group wanted to avoid any personal attacks on the president. (The script mentions Obama’s name only in the context of “Obamacare,” for example.) Phillips said Americans for Prosperity tried to learn from the mistakes that conservative groups like his and the Romney campaign made in attacking the president last year.
“Too often we fell into a broad-based ideological argument, and I think we failed to get at ‘Look at what they’re doing and how it impacts you,’” he said. “I think where we win is on the impact of a specific policy.”
To that end, the online component of the ad campaign asks people to enter information such as their age, gender and type of employer. It then generates various “risks,” like longer waits, delayed care and having to share “personal health information” with the Internal Revenue Service.
The Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media estimates that from 2010, when the law was signed, to 2015, $1 billion will be spent on ads that criticize or defend it. That includes ads for candidates who oppose the law. Half of the $1 billion has already been spent, the group said.