Big Dollar Effort to Defend ObamaCare Comes Up Short


On the first birthday of President Obama's health care overhaul, its supporters are still betting they can achieve an upset P.R. victory. But the odds on that bet paying off seem increasingly long. Politico follows up on the big-money dreams of a star-studded (for Washington) advocacy group set up to defend the law last year—and finds they're coming up short:

Wal-Mart Watch founder Andrew Grossman unveiled the Health Information Campaign with great fanfare last June. Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy's widow, Vicki, were expected to lead the effort. They'd have help from former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. They'd have an office in Washington with 10 or 15 operatives backing the Affordable Care Act and those who supported it.

And they'd have money to spend: Grossman hoped for $25 million a year for five years.

But nine months later, the Health Information Campaign has all but disappeared. Its website hasn't been updated since the end of last year. Its executive director and communications director are gone. There's no sign that it has any money. And neither Daschle nor Dunn will return calls asking about it.

…The Health Information Campaign was active for several months after Grossman's announcement in June. In September, it pumped $2 million into a national television ad campaign touting the law's first insurance reforms. In October, it announced that veteran labor activist and political director James Chiong would serve as its executive director.

"We're going to run a very sophisticated campaign," Chiong told POLITICO at the time. "I think we'll be aggressive on TV, aggressive in making all these diverse partnerships with groups that have health as part of their portfolio."

But that aggressive approach never came.

First, Democrats predicted that the law would become popular after passage. Various prominent liberal strategists predicted that Democrats would be running on the law in their 2010 campaigns. That didn't happen. Then Democrats and their supporters announced plans to mount of a big-budget effort to make the case for the law. Now it looks like that's not really happening either.

Instead, what's happening is that the law is steadily growing less popular. As Reason contributing editor Dave Weigel points out, at least one new poll indicates that some voters who don't like the law would have preferred a more liberal alternative, which complicates the structure of the opposition somewhat. But as he also points out, the heaviest conservative opposition comes from seniors, who are the most reliable voters. And to a large extent the mixed ideology of the opposition just doesn't matter: The fact remains that more people oppose ObamaCare than support it overall. Regardless of the reasoning behind their opposition, that's a big political problem for members of the party that passed the law in hopes of putting it on their campaign brag sheets. The law isn't just a policy failure. It's turned out to be a political failure too.