The new effort — to be headed by Americans United for Change, an all-purpose liberal advocacy group, and Protect Your Care, which focused on Obamacare — will include rapid-response messaging and town halls to try to change the conversation over the health care law, its organizers tell POLITICO. They’ll start next week, during the August recess, but they’re promising to stick around during the massive effort to sign people up for Obamacare this fall.
By DAVID NATHER | 7/31/13 4:46 PM EDT
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/liberal-groups-obamacare-republicans-94996.html#ixzz2afBLuxMt
Their goal: Get Democrats and liberals off of defense, and make the Republicans defend trying to take away benefits like health coverage for pre-existing conditions, which will become available to all Americans when the main parts of the law take effect next January.
(PHOTOS: 25 unforgettable Obamacare quotes)
“This is about being on offense, not being on defense against the repeal crowd. They’re on the wrong side of this now,” said Brad Woodhouse, the former Democratic National Committee spokesman who’s now president of Americans United for Change. “You know what? Obamacare is the law of the land. Hands off my health care.”
Getting off of defense has been the big problem for the Obama administration and its supporters all along. Past efforts by liberals have fallen short, outgunned by the resources of conservative interest groups and the passion of the Tea Party activists who want to wipe the law off the books.
But this time, the pro-Obamacare groups say they’ll have the resources and the firepower to give the White House backup in critical states — and to give groups like Enroll America the “air cover” they need to focus on signing people up for health coverage, according to Eddie Vale, a spokesman for Protect Your Care who’s based at American Bridge, another liberal group that’s ramping up its opposition research on Republican candidates.
(PHOTOS: The eight GOP governors who said yes to Medicaid expansion)
They’ll have the backing of Stephanie Cutter, the veteran of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and past Obamacare messaging efforts, and Paul Tewes, another Obama veteran who helped run the Democratic attacks that defeated President George W. Bush’s Social Security plan in 2005.
And they’re hiring Democratic consultants to help them organize events and rapid-response campaigns in 10 key states, including Texas and Florida, two of the three states with the highest numbers of uninsured people, as well as swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. The others are Wisconsin, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina.
They’ll also be working with national liberal advocacy groups, unions and think tanks, including the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood, Health Care for America Now, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
(WATCH: Rubio compares Obamacare to ‘new Coke’)
They probably won’t work closely with Organizing for Action in its “day of action” on Obamacare this Sunday, Woodhouse said, but “we’ll do what we can to amplify the work that they do.”
The new campaign mirrors the more aggressive approach Obama and his White House team has taken this summer in selling the law, trying to reassure nervous Democrats who thought the administration had been too passive about answering political attacks and addressing implementation problems.
The effort comes at a crucial time, since the anti-Obamacare drumbeat is only getting louder ahead of the start of the law’s signup period Oct. 1. House Republican leaders are planning more votes to dismantle Obamacare — trying to hold off growing rank-and-file pressure to cut off all funding for the law, even if it means shutting down the government.
(Also on POLITICO: TOP 5 complaints about Obamacare)
Republicans are also planning to hold town halls during the August recess to warn that the law could threaten job growth, hurt small businesses, and force people to pay higher premiums.
To push back against those kinds of events, Americans United — which is known for its “in your face” approach, as Woodhouse puts it — will take the lead on rapid response, barraging news media outlets and social media with attacks on the Republicans who want to repeal the law.
Page 2 of 2
“We’re going to hold accountable those members of Congress who, rather incredibly, want to deny their constituents access to affordable health care,” Woodhouse said. The groups are also targeting the GOP governors in states like Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin that have refused to expand Medicaid for low-income people.
Protect Your Care, meanwhile, will organize events with the help of the state consultants — setting up town hall events of their own, featuring women, seniors, young adults, and others who have already benefited from the law. Vale says they’ll also send people to the GOP town hall meetings to put Republican lawmakers on the spot, asking questions about benefits they’ve received, like coverage of contraceptives or preventive care, and asking why the Republicans want to take those away.
Continue ReadingThe big question, of course, is whether the groups will have enough money to compete with the well-funded business and other interest groups that oppose the law. Protect Your Care itself went virtually silent after the Supreme Court ruling last year that upheld the law, even as the Republicans and conservative interest groups continued their attacks through the presidential election cycle and refused to drop the subject after Obama’s re-election.
Woodhouse declined to say how much money the groups would have available, but said it will be enough to have “a robust presence” in the 10 states, and perhaps more down the road. He said the groups have been talking to potential funders that “have been supportive of these kinds of efforts in the past, and they seem excited about the new offensive. So we’re raring to go, and we think the resources will be there.”
And Vale says Protect Your Care hit a “natural lull” after the Supreme Court ruling, when other issues, like immigration reform and the debt ceiling, consumed more of Washington’s attention. Now, the time is right to ramp back up as the enrollment season approaches and the GOP attacks escalate, he said.
They’re also trying to send a signal to Democrats who are on the fence about the law: The polls, including the recent survey by Obama pollster Joel Benenson, show most Americans don’t support the repeal efforts.
“Our message to the Democrats, whether they’re in swing districts or somewhere else, is … no matter where you think the politics were, the politics are shifting, and there’s less support for repeal than ever,” Woodhouse said.