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In Ads, Vulnerable Democrats Seek Distance From Obamacare

Anti-Affordable Care Act Spots Have Been Running Early and Everywhere

By Published on . 1

Elections this year will once again serve as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act and many Democrats are already distancing themselves in ads from the controversial health care law.

The bumpy roll out of the federal health exchange website and the cancellations of millions of individual health care policies shook Democrats in tough races, many of whom broke ranks with their party to vote with the GOP to modify the law.

Some of these Democrats are already on the air criticizing the law and saying changes are needed, although none have been rebellious enough to demand its repeal.

"The way to distance yourself from the ACA is to say it's got to be fixed" said Elizabeth Wilner, VP of Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., considered the most endangered Democrat in the Senate, responded to a barrage of Americans for Prosperity attacks with an ad called "Keeping the Promise " that touts legislation she introduced that would require insurers to keep selling policies that are not ACA-compliant. President Obama said he would veto the bill.

With the Koch-brothers backed Americans for Prosperity spending $27 million on attack ads since August, Ms. Landrieu and other Democrats are expected to focus much of their ad buys this year trying to put as much daylight as possible between themselves and the ACA.

Alex Sink, a Democrat running for an open congressional seat in Florida, has been pummeled by the National Republican Congressional Committee for her support for the ACA. She says in ads she wants to "keep the good and fix the bad," in the law.

Meanwhile the Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democrats, has come to the aid of some party members. Without mentioning the ACA by name, it ran an ads in support of Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. that listed the popular aspects of the law.

"She took on drug companies to lower the costs of prescriptions for seniors, voted to cut waste and fraud in Medicare, forced insurance companies to cover cancer and other preexisting conditions," people say in the ad. "I've read that [Republican challenger] Speaker Thom Tillis sides with insurance companies. He let insurance companies deny coverage if I get sick. Thom Tillis, what about us?"

Also hit by Americans for Prosperity ads are Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for Senate in Iowa, and even Democrats who weren't in office in 2010, the year Congress approved the ACA, including Reps. Rick Nolan and Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire.

Ms. Wilner said in some states, like Texas, anti-ACA ads "are everywhere" and attacking Democrats at all levels of government.

Democrats in tough races are also keeping their distance from Mr. Obama, whose popularity has plunged because of problems with the ACA. Ms. Landrieu and Ms. Hagan, for example, stayed away from the president when he attended events in their states.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., the finance chairman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said some Democrats will still want Mr. Obama to campaign for them, but "there are geographies where the opposite is true."

The anti-ACA campaign has begun early, Ms. Wilner said "because someone needs to be out there early to soften the ground."

Meanwhile, Ms. Kantar says it's a bet Democrats who are running ads now are the most vulnerable candidates in their party.

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