Shaheen one of several Democrats targeted in new ad campaign over support for Obamacare
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is one of three Democrats targeted nationally over health care reform in new ads this week from the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, and political observers say there will likely be more to come.
The 30-second commercial began airing yesterday on WMUR and TV cable stations statewide. It will air for about three weeks, for a total cost of more than $600,000, said Greg Moore, director of Americans for Prosperity’s New Hampshire chapter.
Americans for Prosperity released the ad yesterday, the day after federal regulations went into effect requiring all Americans to have health insurance, the key provision of the federal health insurance reform law known as Obamacare.
The group is also targeting Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who are all up for re-election in November, in similar ads released yesterday.
The New Hampshire ad uses a clip of Shaheen speaking in support of the Affordable Care Act on the floor of the Senate, saying “you can keep your insurance if you like it.”
Headlines from local and national news sources about problems plaguing consumers since the law’s implementation then flash across the screen.
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield canceled the policies of 22,000 New Hampshire residents, according to one article cited. (The ad doesn’t note that state law protected those consumers’ right to renew their coverage for 12 months, until Dec. 1, 2014.)
The ad also cites a National Public Radio report, saying Anthem’s narrow network of health care providers for new plans has North Country residents “facing hour-long drives just to see a doctor.”
That claim exaggerates the limitations of the network, which were determined not by the federal law but by state rules governing insurance networks.
It’s true the rules allow a commute of up to 60 minutes or 45 miles for a patient to get to a covered hospital, but the rules also require plans to cover at least two primary care doctors within 15 miles or a 40-minute drive.
The ad closes with the phone number for Shaheen’s office in Washington, D.C., and tells viewers to call and tell the senator “you deserve better than Obamacare.”
Voters who do call could ask Shaheen to work on repealing the law, and ask her to “at the very least, start working in a bipartisan fashion to start scaling back these onerous provisions,” said Moore.
“The individual mandate began (Wednesday). That’s something we’ll continue to focus on,” he said.
It’s a strategy New Hampshire residents will be seeing more of, as long as it seems to be working, said New Hampshire political observers.
“A lot of conservative organizations have looked at the polling numbers that show the president has suffered in popularity as this has rolled out, and they figured, if this is hurting the president nationally, that doubling down and using it to hurt Democratic senators that were supportive is a good strategy,” said Wayne Lesperance, a professor of political science at New England College in Henniker.
“We’re going to see them and other groups push this attack until they believe it is not working any longer.”
Barring major new developments in some other part of the national political landscape, voters can expect to hear about Obamacare for a while, said Dante Scala, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.
“Obamacare is the best issue conservatives have to throw at Jeanne Shaheen right now, one of the few they have to throw, as long as the economy is recovering,” he said.
Scala doubts that line of attack will have much success, however, as voters have already been exposed to several months of negative news about the Affordable Care Act and have likely made up their minds on the issue.
Shaheen has received more support in polls than Landrieu and Hagan, even after the botched rollout of the new health law, he said.
“Shaheen’s race is not in the same category of vulnerability, and I don’t know what three weeks of this ad are going to say that people haven’t heard already,” he said.
With that in mind, Scala speculated that the ad may be an attempt to entice more Republican candidates to the race against Shaheen.
Former two-term U.S. senator Bob Smith, former state senator Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman have each announced their intention to challenge her. Former Massachusetts U.S. senator Scott Brown has gotten national attention by signaling he might run after selling his home in that state and moving to live full time at a vacation home in Rye.
“This ad could be a signal to a candidate like Scott Brown that if they enter the race, AFP will be there to support them,” Scala said. “But that’s just speculation at this point.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)