By Robert Mann
I’ve argued for months that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will play only a minor role in the 2014 U.S. Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Landrieu will probably never campaign on the wisdom of her vote for the legislation. But have you noticed that Cassidy hasn’t launched any major attacks on her for supporting it? (He has recently aired an anti-Obamacare spot, but it strangely never mentions Landrieu’s name.) If Landrieu’s vote were as fatal to her reelection as many Republicans once believed, wouldn’t you expect Cassidy to pound her relentlessly about it?
Republicans aren’t savaging Landrieu about the ACA because they know such attacks won’t work. The ACA might not be overwhelmingly popular in Louisiana (and other places), but it’s becoming more widely accepted and successful. For example, in Louisiana, a clear majority opposes its repeal, preferring, instead, to fix it. That’s why, in his spot, Cassidy’s carefully says he wants to “replace” the law (with what is not clear).
Even Gov. Bobby Jindal, a few months ago, advised the GOP to not run the 2014 election solely on repealing Obamacare.
Most telling, however, was what occurred last Monday during Sen. David Vitter’s appearance before the Baton Rouge Press Club. Vitter is running for governor next year, but his former communications director is running Cassidy’s campaign. Vitter is close to Cassidy and has every reason to want Landrieu defeated.
Therefore, when reporters asked Vitter about the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provision (which Jindal refuses to accept), he could have easily attacked Landrieu on Cassidy’s behalf. He didn’t. Instead, Vitter said he might be open, under certain circumstances, to accepting the federal funds to expand Medicaid.
Some of this was probably a result of Vitter’s reflexive dislike of Jindal, whom he obliquely ridiculed during his Press Club appearance. But Vitter’s statement that he would consider accepting Medicaid was also significant for what he left unsaid, but clearly implied: The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.
Vitter might have said, “Here are my ideas about how to better care for Louisiana’s working poor who don’t have health insurance, after we repeal Obamacare.” He could have ignored the question and launched a gratuitous attack on Democrats, like Landrieu, who supported Obamacare. He could have endorsed Jindal’s alternative health care plan. But he didn’t.
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