The conventional wisdom suggests that Democrats are “running scared” from health care reform. But the truth is that most Democrats have nothing to be afraid of — and those who do, by and large, voted against it. Of course, some of the vulnerable Dems who voted for the bill are happy to avoid the subject. But a surprising number are running on reform, in ads, op-eds, and debates in their states and districts.
While it’s true that a number of the most conservative and vulnerable Dems are outwardly repudiating their party’s leadership, Speaker Pelosi herself yesterday sought to set the record straight on Democratic pride in reform.
“It’s important to note — and I say this all the time — the plural of anecdote is not data,” she told reporters. “At least 200 members are out there boasting the benefit of the health care bill. At least. There may be some who did vote for the bill who are not talking it up — they didn’t vote for it. There are others who are soft peddling it, maybe, because other issues are working for them better. “
Below the top five examples of Democrats turning the CW on its head.
1. Sen. Russ Feingold
Feingold is behind in his re-election campaign, and running against an extremely conservative businessman — Ron Johnson — who attacks the health care bill daily. So it came as a surprise to many when Feingold two weeks ago unveiled the below ad, touting his support for the legislation, and challenging Johnson: “hands off my health care.”
It may be working. Johnson used to support a full repeal of the law, but has recently backtracked on that position.
The TPM Poll Average gives Johnson a 52.2-44.0 lead over Feingold.
2. Majority Leader Harry Reid
As Senate Majority Leader, Reid had little choice but to defend his vote, defend it early, and describe how his accomplishment will benefit Nevadans. He did just that in this April ad touting the fact that the health care law will, over time, close the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole.
The TPM Poll Average has Reid and his opponent Sharron Angle tied at 47.6.
3. Rep. Scott Murphy
The New York Democrat has just launched the ad that all Democrats probably should’ve been running for… well, the whole health care fight. He doesn’t just cop to his vote, and hit his opponent, Chris Gibson, for wanting to repeal certain parts of the law. He mounts the most comprehensive defense of reform any candidate has thus far. “Chris Gibson wants to repeal the health care law. Chris Gibson would let insurance companies go back to denying coverage for preexisting conditions. He would let them restore lifetime limits on coverage. Chris Gibson would eliminate mandatory coverage for preventive care, like mammograms and colon screenings. And seniors would pay more for prescription drugs.”
That may have to do with current politics. The TPM Poll Average gives Murphy a 48.0-38.3 lead over Gibson.
4. Rep. Earl Pomeroy
Here’s a race where few inside the beltway would expect the Democrat to be running on his pro-health care reform vote. It’s fitting, then, that fewer still know that that’s exactly what he’s doing. Perhaps Pomeroy would have a different focus if unemployment numbers in North Dakota were worse than they are. But his strategy still doesn’t fit into the DC paradigm.
The TPM Poll Average has Pomeroy down 47.1-45.5 against his opponent Rick Berg, and quickly closing the gap.
5. Rep. Dina Titus
With unemployment through the roof, and well-funded opponents, Democrats are in a tough spot in Nevada. But that’s not stopping Dina Titus. In the below ad Titus describes her vote for the health care law as of a piece with other populist votes she took: against the 2008 bailout, against tax loopholes for outsources, and for a congressional pay freeze. In this telling, she “took on big insurance companies to end discrimination against pre-existing conditions.”
The TPM Poll Average has Titus trailing her opponent Joe Heck 46.9-45.7.
It’s not just TV ads, though.
ThinkProgress put together the below compilation of members and candidates, including Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Rep. Brad Ellsworth, running for Senate in Indiana, boasting about the legislation in their debates.
It’s happening in print and online as well. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI), who was down 18 points in a recent poll, nonetheless penned an op-ed defending the law. Freshly-minted Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) did the same, though he’s leading his race by a healthy margin.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.