WASHINGTON -- Republicans have kept up a constant barrage against "Obamacare" this week, but President Barack Obama's campaign has quietly been running a massive grassroots and online push to reclaim the nickname critics have used to denigrate the Affordable Care Act.
In fact, Team Obama is about to take the selling of the president's health care law to a whole new level Saturday by kicking off a merchandise line, complete with T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons, all proudly emblazoned with "Obamacare."
Not only does Obama want to own the word that's been used to attack him so often, but supporters can, too.
Ironically, the effort comes just a day after one of the leaders of the assault on the Affordable Care Act, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), teased Obama for not having cake to celebrate the second anniversary of the signing of the health care law.
And the GOP is not backing down. McConnell took to the airwaves Saturday, delivering another attack on "Obamacare" in the Republican weekly address.
“President Obama was right to attempt a reform; he joined a long list of members of both parties who want to see our health care system improved. But Obamacare clearly isn’t the answer. And two years after its passage, Americans have now come to their own conclusion," McConnell said. "They don’t like it, they think it’s unconstitutional, and they want it repealed.
“The time has come to clear the way and start over, to replace this unconstitutional law with common-sense, step-by-step reforms that lower costs and Americans support,” McConnell said.
The president's team may not have had cake, but it is trying to give itself a gift. The campaign embraced the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act Friday, launching online petitions for people to declare "I like Obamacare," and tweeting "Happy birthday to Obamacare.
In an email to supporters, campaign manager Jim Messina made the case for "Obamacare."
"If you're tired of the other side throwing around that word like it's an insult, then join me in sending a message that we're proud of it," said Messina in the email.
"What's not to like? Obamacare means you won't have to pay out of pocket for preventive care like cancer screenings and birth control, insurance companies can no longer drop people when they get sick or refuse coverage for 'pre-existing conditions,' and women won't have to pay more just for being women," Messina wrote.
"The bottom line is, the more people know about health care reform, the more they like it. So make sure your friends and family know that Obamacare is something to be proud of -- and worth fighting for," he said, directing people to the petition.
Top Obama adviser David Axelrod followed up a little later with his own pitch, declaring, "Hell yeah. I like Obamacare."
That was just for the two-year anniversary itself. The merchandise and the online push is all part of a broader effort by the campaign to reclaim "that word," especially with women who have emerged as perhaps the key group in the president's reelection bid amid the recent GOP efforts to pare back access to contraception, abortion and other women's health services.
The Democratic National Committee has sent a million mailings targeting women, and grassroots groups have been holding women-to-women phone banks, as well as nurse phone banks and field events, according to the campaign.
There were six health-care phone banks in New Hampshire last week and more this week in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, just to name a few swing states.
The campaign expects to hold hundreds of phone banks by the end of the push, which is centered around the anniversary and next week's Supreme Court arguments over the law. State groups are holding more grassroots events this week and next, the campaign said.
The campaign also launched Nurses for Obama to get them to talk to their friends, family and co-workers about health care and the law. There's also an online effort to have people share their tales of dealing with health care.
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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