The New, Fact-Checker-Proof Koch-Backed TV Ads Against Democrats

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 17 2014 8:55 AM

The New, Fact-Checker-Proof Koch-Backed TV Ads Against Democrats

Americans for Prosperity has acted as the tip of the spear for 2014's Republican campaigns, plowing millions into early TV ads attacking the Affordable Care Act. The standard AFP ad took a lesson from Priorities USA's successful anti-Romney ads of 2012, the ones that found people who blamed their job losses on Bain Capital. AFP found (sometimes via members of Congress) average, usually female victims of Obamacare, with specific problems to blame on President #Obummer.

These ads led to inevitable and time-wasting news cycles—"fact-checking" cycles. In Michigan and Arkansas, for example, the AFP ads featured critics of the law who claimed to have lost insurance and to have gotten a cancellation letter. In Michigan the victim actually kept her doctor under a changed plan; in Arkansas the plan had subsequently been extended to 2017.

Needlessly complicated. With this fresh $850,000 ad buy against Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (equal to about 12 percent of what the Republican candidate spent against Udall in 2008), AFP returns to a blander, less challenge-able message. A woman tells her audience (you) that no matter what you hear, health care is about people.

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I say AFP is "returning" to this message because the exact same woman/wording appeared in an ad directed at Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor.

If there's no personal story of Obamacare, there's no potent emotional impact. There's also no bright, glowing, pulsating target for the fact-check stormtroopers. We may see more of these "it's about people" ads as AFP keeps pounding the terrain for Republicans.

(Incidentally, as Democrats engage in their usual panic about how to avoid losing everything, you've got to ask why they can't find any Obamacare beneficiaries to show off in ads. I've met some, people who were able to leave lousy jobs or get insurance for the first time. In Florida I met a 27-year-old independent film editor who got "Obamacare" and a day later ate bad sushi that sent him to the hospital. Not Rudy, as inspiring stories go, but surely the Democrats will want to find people who benefited from the law.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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