As Republicans Stop Talking About Obamacare, One Vulnerable Democrat Is Touting Its Success


Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) released an ad touting provisions of the Affordable Care Act on Monday just as Republicans in competitive congressional races are spending less on political spots attacking the law.

The ad, titled “Cancer,” tells a personal story of how Pryor, a two-term senator who is now in a tight race to retain his senate seat, had to tango with insurance companies after being diagnosed with cancer in 1996. “No one should be fighting an insurance company while you’re fighting for your life,” Pryor says. “That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions.”

Though a spokesperson for the Pyror campaign claimed that the senator has always planned to run on his support for the measure — and pointed to a previous spot in which Pryor indirectly highlighted its benefits for seniors — he admitted that the new ad is “a little more clear” about Pryor’s position. In fact, the ad may be the very first spot from a vulnerable Democrat to directly present the vote as a strong positive.

“Mark is very pleased with the success of the private option in Arkansas and the number of uninsured having dropped so precipitously is just objectively a good thing,” deputy campaign manager Erik Dorey said. “This is a story that we’d always wanted to tell about how the senator’s personal fight with an aggressive and deadly form of cancer helped him to see these issues as something more personal. His story is one that many Arkansans can relate to.”

It’s one that may remind voters of the success of the law in the state.

Since last year, 43,446 signed up for coverage through the federal health exchange and close to 200,000 were enrolled in the state’s Medicaid “private option.” As a result, the uninsurance rate has fallen by half, from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent in mid-2014,” Gallup poll reported.

Dorey also contrasted Pryor’s position with that of his GOP opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR).

“Tom Cotton would kick all of those people off of their health insurance tomorrow if he had a chance and that’s an important case that Pyror is making and will continue to make,” he said.

In fact, Cotton appears to be downplaying criticism of the law in paid advertising, following the trend of other Republican challengers in tight senate races around the country. Though he last ran an ad that mentioned Obamacare in June, the focus of the campaign appears to have shifted away from criticism of the law, as Obamacare spots made-up just 23 percent of the top five issue ads in July, according to an analysis conducted by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. Cotton has repeatedly voted to repeal the law and promised to “replace it with reforms that trust patients and doctors.” His campaign website does not include any details on that proposal.

In April, Pyror made headlines by claiming that he would vote for the health care law again. “Mark has been very consistent with how he’s talked about the health care law and what role it’s played in our campaign,” Dorey said. “He has always said the law isn’t perfect and that he’d be first line to talk with anyone in the room to make it better.”