A consortium of progressive groups, think tanks, trade unions and activists are set to launch a $40 million health care campaign to prepare the ground for the next president to sign expanded care early in 2009.
The work of Health Care For America Now was first made public late last week. But the group, with Elizabeth Edwards as a figurehead, offered expanded insight into the details of its campaign during a meeting on Monday. In addition to spending $40 million -- $1.5 million of which will be put behind an initial ad buy (national TV, print, and online) -- the group will be sending organizers to 52 cities, blasting out emails to 5 million households, airing spots on MSNBC and CNN and submitting op-eds to major papers (officials hinted at the New York Times piece to come).
In addition, the campaign is going to take advantage of Moveon.org's massive data files to reach out to like-minded supporters and officials promised to work in Democratic and Republican districts alike.
"We'll have an organizer in the district of every Blue Dog Democrat," said HCAN campaign manager Richard Kirsch of the conservative Democrats.
"The focus of the campaign," he added, "is on national legislation. "This year, however, it is also a referendum: do you support quality, affordable, health care for all, or an alliance with the private insurance industry?"
Kirsch stressed repeatedly that the effort was legislative, not political. And, as such, the campaign will not offer direct criticism of John McCain's health care policy. Nor are there plans, at this point in time, to coordinate with Barack Obama -- who has stressed that he will make health care legislation a priority in the White House -- or Ted Kennedy -- who is reportedly set to relaunch a Senate effort to achieve universal care.
Asked whether the campaign's goals were at odds with those of Obama (whose plan does not, like Hillary Clinton's, rely on mandates), Kirsch stressed that the shared goal of providing a more comprehensive health care system outweighed the disagreements in preferred solution.
"The principles behind our campaign are similar to those Obama has," he said. "These are principles we've developed over many years and they make sense."
The campaign, which will be officially launched at the National Press Club today, is slated to last through the election and into the next administration, though Kirsch insisted that it was not a "long-term" institution. In the end, the goal -- either through influencing voter preferences or candidate positions -- is to get comprehensive health care legislation passed by 2009 and no later.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent at TPM, has the group's first ad.