The House Democratic leadership appears to be gambling on a strategy to rally its political base with vigorous support of Obamacare, at a time when polls show the healthcare measure is unpopular with the overall voting public.
With Democrats needing to pick up 17 Republican-held seats in 2014 to recapture a majority in the House, leaders are not only urging lawmakers to stand firmly behind the Affordable Care Act, but have told them how to sell the measure back home during the congressional recess.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told Democratic congressmen before the Memorial Day recess that “we now want to educate our constituents about the new law, help to implement it, and strengthen the hands of those who have helped to enact this historic reform.”
Attached to the document, which was co-signed by the Democratic co-chairs of the House Steering and Policy Committee — Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Rob Andrews of New Jersey — was a “tool kit” that provided “frequently asked questions” from constituents about Obamacare.
That document provides “a list of district training sessions and relevant federal contact information” to further explain the healthcare measure.
Among the selling points is that, starting this fall, "consumer-friendly marketplaces will enable families and individuals who are uninsured or buy their own coverage to buy their own quality, affordable coverage."
"The majority of Americans will have access to subsidies to make their insurance more affordable. …There will be no annual limits on coverage for any patient and everyone will be guaranteed the availability of health insurance, regardless of medical history or pre-existing conditions,” House Democrats are told.
In what is tantamount to laying the groundwork for a national campaign based on support of Obamacare, the Democratic leadership, according to Pelosi’s letter, is “strongly encouraging” House Democrats to name an Affordable Care Act "coordinator” from their staffs.
“This individual should be in a district office and be the primary person tasked with the casework and constituent queries about the ACA,” wrote Pelosi, who urges her colleagues to register their coordinator through a special email address “so that this staff member will continue to receive important updates on ACA implementation.”
Five days after the Pelosi memo went out, a CNN/ORC International Poll showed that, among likely voters nationwide, 54 percent opposed Obamacare and 43 percent support it.
“Not surprisingly, the Obama coalition is most supportive of Obamacare,” CNN Political Director Ken Holland told the Huffington Post. The poll found that 75 percent of Democrats favored Obamacare, while only 16 percent of Republicans supported it.
House Republicans have taken the opposite approach from Democrats, often using Obamacare as a political punching bag.
The Republican-led House on May 16 voted for the 37th time to repeal Obamacare and is now focused on denying funding to the healthcare program, set to take effect Jan. 1.
The House vote was 229 to 195. Two Democrats — Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah — joined the 227 Republicans voting to overturn Obamacare..
McIntyre and Matheson both eked out re-election last fall in two of the closest House races in the nation. Both face rematches with their Republican opponents in 2014.
For Pelosi, lining up her colleagues and educating them on how to defend Obamacare is no major problem. As to whether making it a key plank in the coming midterm elections is good politics — and whether it can help vulnerable members — remains to be seen.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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