By Brian Howey
NASHVILLE, Ind. - While Indiana Democrats are preparing to engage Republican U.S. Senate nominee Richard Mourdock on the Chrysler rescue and jobs, the Republican will attack Democratic nominee Joe Donnelly on the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
Mourdock took aim at Donnelly in an email to supporters on May 31, saying, "Last week, Notre Dame and 42 other Catholic institutions sued the Obama Administration over ObamaCare’s blatant violation of religious freedom. I unequivocally stand behind Notre Dame’s Obamacare lawsuit."
Mourdock asked, "Joe Donnelly? He was one of the deciding votes on Obamacare. Not only that, even after seeing healthcare costs skyrocket after its passage, the Northwest Indiana Times reports that 'Donnelly not running from Obamacare vote,'" Mourdock said. He added, "We must elect someone who will repeal ObamaCare and replace it with common sense free-market reforms – not someone who proudly supports it. We need to allow employees to deduct 100% of their healthcare expenses from their taxes, improve Health Savings Accounts, and let groups create association health plans."
At a May 24 press conference in South Bend, Mourdock told the South Bend Tribune, "It's ironic that a graduate of Ball State should be here defending Notre Dame when a Notre Dame graduate, my opponent Joe Donnelly, refuses to do so. He refuses to separate himself from the policies of Obamacare, from the policies of stimulus, from the policies of bailout."
In the May 20 Times article, Rep. Donnelly took on his Republican critics, pointing to presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts, pushed and signed universal health care. "First, they ought to talk to Mitt Romney because he basically laid out so many of the premises in it," Donnelly said. "If they want an argument, they ought to start with him."
"My daughter and millions of other Americans who may have diabetes or a heart condition or cancer can get health coverage for the first time because of the health care bill," Donnelly said of his daughter, Molly, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. He said the law gives seniors prescription drug discounts and helps students just graduating from college. "For young adults - 21, 22, 23 - who are getting their first jobs in a tough economy where the employer might not be able to offer health care, they can stay on their parents' health care," Donnelly said. He added that if he's elected to the U.S. Senate, he'll work to improve the law. "My job is to go there and try to make things even better," Donnelly said.
Donnelly was one of the last Democrats to announce support for the health care reforms. In a statement on March 21, 2010, Donnelly explained, "From the beginning of this debate, I’ve remained consistent in fighting for the principles I believe should be a part of health insurance reform. We need to prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to folks who suffer from serious illnesses and we need to extend the life of Medicare. We need to lower the costs of health insurance that are squeezing families and small businesses and we must allow people to keep the insurance they have - if that’s what they want to do. We need to ensure that any reforms prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion-related services and do not add to the national debt.”
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, who Donnelly defeated in the 2nd CD in 2006, told me that he believes Obamacare will propel Mourdock into the Senate, despite polls by Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground (tied at 35%), Global Strategies Group for Donnelly (tied at 40%) and Rasmussen Reports (tied at 42%) that shows the race a current "tossup." Club for Growth invested almost $1.8 million in Mourdock's primary battle against U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, with Mourdock winning 61-39%. Chocola said that Donnelly is only known in the 2nd CD, but believes Republican assaults against him over Obamacare will allow Mourdock to emerge as the winner on Nov. 6.
A Dec. 11-13 Public Opinion Strategies Poll conducted on behalf of the Indiana Association of Realtors revealed that 57% oppose the health reforms while 35% favor. On the question of repeal, 55% supported and 35% opposed. The POS poll did not break out the various issues that make up the ACA and what levels of support they have.
Nationally, a March Associated Press/GfK Poll found that 35 percent of Americans support the health care law overhaul, while 47 percent oppose it. A Kaiser Foundation Poll in March revealed that 53% of Americans are "confused" about the law.
There are several wild cards. When Mourdock says he will “repeal” Obamacare, that will be virtually impossible unless Republicans get a 60-seat Senate majority in November, and I’ve seen nothing that indicates that will happen.
The most likely avenue for repeal will be later this month when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the ACA. If the law is struck down, it is anyone's guess as to how that will shift the political dynamic. One school of thought is it will push Senate nominees to discuss what will replace the ACA. Mourdock is likely to continue to criticize Donnelly for his vote, but the Democrat could try and shift the debate on what U.S. Sen. Dan Coats has articulated as "repeal and replace."