One Actress, One Ad, Six States: Why the Koch Brothers' Anti-Obamacare Argument Is Wearing Thin


If you haven’t seen the new Koch brothers ad — and it’s only a matter of time before you do — you should be ready for a surprise.

Yes, as you might guess, the $850,000 Americans for Prosperity ad buy is a PAC-money down payment for Cory Gardner agreeing to get into the race against Mark Udall. (Owen Hill dropping out of the race as the ads begin reads like another down payment.)

And, sure, the ad itself is predictably about Obamacare, because, from my reading, Udall’s Obamacare vote is apparently the entire Republican argument against him.

But here’s the surprising part. The ad shows a woman asking us to tell Mark Udall that health care is about people — it’s what she says — while Obamacare is about, presumably, not-people. And that’s it. It’s a 30-second appeal — the same appeal that is playing in about six states with the nearly-same script and with the exact-same actress — that just reminds you that Udall/five other senators voted for Obamacare and that Obamacare is bad.

If hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are suffering because of Obamacare, you’d think the Koch brothers could find at least one of them to appear in their $850,000 ad.

What’s telling — and I’m not the first to notice this — is that in the old days, these ads invariably showcased a woman telling a story about how Obamacare had ruined her life, robbed her of her doctor, doomed her to cancer or other life-threatening diseases.

The problem with those ads is that none of them, one after the other, held up to scrutiny. This became a cottage industry in the fact-checking world and a huge embarrassment to the ad-makers.

And so, to solve the fact-checker issue, we get an ad with no story. Health care is about people, but the people who made this ad couldn’t seem to find any. Not one person doomed to death and despair because, for all of Obamacare’s faults, dooming people to death and despair is just not one of them.

When you watch the ad, note that the actress purports to be saddened by the horror that Udall has unleashed on America and pleads for us to do something about it. But if hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are suffering because of Obamacare, you’d think the Koch brothers — whom the Democrats will try to turn into their own Bloomberg, as the out-of-state rich guy telling us what to do — could find at least one. I mean, they’re spending $850,000 — and that doesn’t include whatever else they’re investing this month in their NCAA pools.

It’s not the only question about the ad. The other big one is why they’re running these ads on the cusp of spring, nearly eight months from Election Day when you’d think, in Colorado anyway, they should be spending their money boosting Gardner’s name recognition. It won’t be long before a Democratic PAC is unleashing a torrent of ads reminding centrist Coloradans that Gardner has the 10th-most conservative voting record in the ultra-conservative House.

I have a theory. The Obamacare strategy has worked for years, and it has to go for eight more months if Republicans are going to retake the Senate. If Obamacare becomes a wash — and it’s only a matter of time before Democrats finally show some ads with people who like Obamacare — Democrats are likely to hold on, which is why Republicans have to win this battle.

That’s why they’ve clung so tenaciously to the Colorado “cancellation” number of more than 300,000, as if the 300,000 no longer have insurance. According to reports, 92 percent of them were offered new policies. People may think Obama lied to them about keeping their own policy. Republicans will definitely try to pin that on Udall. But you just can’t make the case that these people aren’t insured.

And yet, John Boehner has tried. He argued the other day that fewer people are insured now than before Obamacare. The fact checkers immediately went into high gear. Since somewhere between 5 million and 6 million people received their “cancellation” letters, Boehner made the assumption that they had all lost their insurance. And since the Obamacare exchange signup number is something over 4 million, there you have it: 6-4 = Nonsense.

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker who once gave Obama 4 Pinocchios for overestimating the number of signups, gives Boehner 4 Pinocchios for bad subtraction. Kessler did the math — and borrowed some from others — to show an estimate of the newly insured ranging somewhere around 13 million. And for Boehner to say all the people who were insured before are not insured now is, uh, what — a lie?

If, at this point, Obamacare is simply a shaky proposition, that’s not good enough. Democrats are now saying, in a poll-tested position, that Obamacare must be fixed and not repealed. Republicans have to insist it’s a disaster, even if they haven’t come up with a plan of their own to replace it.

Except, you know, to say that health care is about people. And to please make sure that Mark Udall knows it.

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