Vulnerable Democrats defend Obamacare ahead of midterms

CBS

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, is running one of the only ads of the midterm campaign season so far that defends Obamacare. However, illustrating that the law could still be a liability for some Democrats, Pryor never refers to the law by name.

Instead of touting his support for the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare," the red-state Democrat talks about specific, popular provisions of the law. Specifically, he notes that the law he helped pass bars insurance companies from dropping customers once they get sick or from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

"No one should be fighting an insurance company while you're fighting for your life," Pryor says in the ad, reflecting on the struggles he faced with his insurance provider when he was diagnosed with cancer 18 years ago.

Pryor, who is running against conservative Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election this year.

The law has been controversial since it was passed in 2010, and Republicans have typically used the law's unpopularity to club Democrats during campaign seasons. Conservatives this year have attacked Pryor and other Democrats for supporting the law, but the number of anti-Obamacare ads running this year is dwindling, Bloomberg reported this week.

The change in strategy reflects the priorities of voters: In a CBS News poll from May, 39 percent of voters said the economy will be the most important issue they consider ahead of the midterms. Just 22 percent named health care.

As the attacks ease, Democrats and their allies have been slightly more vocal in their defense of the law.

In April, Put Alaska First -- a super PAC backing the re-election of Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska -- launched an ad featuring a breast cancer survivor who lost her health insurance before the Affordable Care Act was passed.

"I now have health insurance again because of Mark Begich," she says. "Because he fought the insurance companies, so that we no longer have to."

In Louisiana, a third vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu, spoke out in defense of the Obamacare rule allowing states to expand Medicaid. Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Louisiana, opposes the expansion. In April, Landrieu decried what she called the "Jindal gap" -- the number of Louisiana residents who don't qualify for Obamacare subsidies yet are ineligible for Medicaid because Jindal has refused to expand the program.

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