KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Voter Turnout, Not Obamacare Support, Doomed Florida Congressional Election, Democrats Say

Democrats are disputing the notion that their support of the health law will play a big role in November's elections. But the GOP isn't backing off on using the issue as a key point in trying to win races.

The Associated Press: Analysis: Dispute On Obamacare Role In House Race
Republicans have a new calling card for the midterm elections, same as the old one. It’s Obamacare all the way to Nov. 4 after the party's triumph Tuesday in the race for a House seat in Florida. Soon it will be time for rank-and-file Democrats in both houses of Congress to decide how closely to stick to the controversial health care program as their own races develop (Espo, 3/13).

Politico: Florida Loss Exposes Democrats' Disarray On Obamacare
Democrats can’t even agree whether Obamacare was the reason for their crushing loss in a Florida special election Tuesday. Now picture how their messaging plan for the health care law is shaping up for 2014. Republican lobbyist David Jolly’s victory over Democrat Alex Sink has many Democrats privately worried and publicly split about how to talk about Obamacare. A few Democrats are advocating a drastic rhetorical shift to the left, by criticizing their own party for not going far enough when it passed the law in 2010. Other Democrats plan to sharply criticize the Affordable Care Act when running for re-election. Many plan to stick to the simple message that Obamacare is flawed and needs to be fixed — a tactic that plainly didn’t work for Sink (Sherman and Everett, 3/13).

Los Angeles Times: Low Turnout, Not Obamacare, Poses Chief Threat, Democrats Say
Following their loss in Tuesday's special congressional election in Florida, Democratic strategists increasingly are willing to say publicly that the party faces a problem in this year's midterm election -- but it's not necessarily the one you'd think of. Not Obamacare, Democrats argue. Republicans may point to the president's health care law as the centerpiece of their election strategy, the subject which the vast majority of their television ads in the Florida race talked about, but Democrats deny that's the key (Lauter, 3/12).

The Washington Post: Democrats Pinning Fla. Special Election Loss On Dismal Turnout Effort
Democrats spent Wednesday trying to explain away a disappointing loss in a Florida special congressional election that they had been expected to win. "The takeaway from the special in Florida is that Democrats will need to invest heavily in a national field program in order to win in November. Nearly 50,000 fewer people voted in the special than in the 2010 general election, a 21% drop off," officials at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) wrote in their daily morning memo (Kane and Sullivan, 3/12).

ABC News: White House Press Secretary: Obamacare Not A Factor In Florida Loss
Democrats may have lost the first congressional election of 2014, but the White House insists the Democratic loss has nothing to do with Obamacare. "Any fair assessment of the role that the debate about the Affordable Care Act played reaches the conclusion that at best for the Republicans, it was a draw," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney of the special election to replace Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., who died last year. So why did the better-known, better-funded Democratic candidate, Alex Sink, lose to an unimpressive Republican candidate who constantly hammered her over her support for the President's Affordable Care Act? (Karl, 3/12).

McClatchy: After Fla. Victory, GOP Will Continue To Bash Health Care Law
Republicans were rejoicing Wednesday over their surprising Florida congressional victory the night before, a triumph that they said proved that opposition to the health care law would be a powerful political weapon this year. Their success was unsettling news for Democrats, who've been on the defensive for months over the glitches, breakdowns and tweaks to the new health care system they've proudly championed. Most Republicans never liked the 2010 law, and their relentless efforts to repeal and replace it became so persistent that Democrats took to mocking them (Lightman, 3/12).

Bloomberg: Americans Stick With Obamacare As Opposition Burns Bright 
President Barack Obama's health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes. Even so, the fervor of the opposition shows no sign of abating, posing a challenge for Obama's Democrats during congressional races this year, as a Republican victory in a special Florida election this week showed (Dorning, 3/12).

The Fiscal Times: Why Dems Are More Worried Than Ever About November
These are tough times for President Obama and the Democrats. Republican David Jolly, a former Washington lobbyist, won a closely watched House special election in Florida on Tuesday after relentlessly hammering away at Obamacare – a win that's a bad omen for other Democratic candidates across the country. Add to that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll just out showing Obama's approval rating at an all-time low of 41 percent, suggesting Democrats may be facing strong political headwinds less than eight months before the November midterm elections (Pianin, 3/12).

Politico: $700K Ad Buy Hits Mark Pryor On Obamacare
Americans for Prosperity is launching a major ad buy hitting Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) on Thursday, pushing the group's advertising investments in the race to more than $1.4 million so far this year. Pryor, who is facing off with Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in one of the most hotly contested races of the year, was the subject of a six-figure negative ad buy last month from the outside conservative group. The second batch of ads, shared first with Politico, totals about $700,000 and links Pryor to cancelled insurance plans tied to Obamacare (Glueck, 3/13).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.