07/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Health Care Ad Wars Heat Up: Democrats Targeted By Progressives

The ad wars are ramping up in the health care debate, with two progressive groups targeting Republicans and wavering Democrats, including eight members of the Senate Finance Committee -- the most critical players in crafting reform.

On Friday, Health Care for America Now (HCAN) -- the nation's largest health care campaign - launched a $1.1 million television ad campaign pushing a public health insurance option. The spot, titled "What If," is targeting senators in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington and will run for ten days. Among the lawmakers being targeted include Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Kent Conrad (D.N.D.) -- all of whom have been difficult-to-pin down on a public option for health insurance coverage.


"What if we stripped away the 13 billion dollar insurance company profits?" the script reads. "The 119 million dollar CEO bonuses? The endless denials. The soaring co-pays and premiums? You'd have health care between you and your doctor -- that's the president's plan. Keep the coverage you have now. Or choose from a range of plans. Including a public health insurance option to lower costs and keep insurance companies honest."

HCAN wasn't the only one going after Democrats. MoveOn.org put out a radio ad on Friday targeting Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for backtracking on her commitment to a public option, and the ad pointed to her campaign donations as a reason why.

"[Landrieu] did receive $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry -- the same industry that's now spending millions to stop the president's plan," the spot says.

In addition, on Friday, the pro-Obama Americans United for Change put out a heavy-on-the-mockery web ad, taking Republicans to task for mimicking right-wing talking points that denounce health care reform as socialism.

"It's the same tired old phrases they've been using since they opposed Medicare decades ago," said an AUC official.


Taken together, the spots are a small strike in what promises to be a very expensive battle on health care. The MoveOn and HCAN ads are of note, not simply because there is real money behind them, but because they target Democratic senators in addition to Republicans. Certainly, nobody expected that health care reform would pass smoothly. But for progressives to be targeting Democrats this early (and repeatedly) is a reflection of the precariousness of the debate surrounding a public plan.

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