House Democrats know they can run but can't hide from Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
So they've decided on a four-pronged counter message as they try to withstand the GOP pummeling.
- Embrace the parts of the law that are broadly popular like the ban on insurance companies excluding people for pre-existing conditions.
- Promise to fix what's wrong.
- Accuse Republicans of wanting to return to the days when insurers had more control over healthcare. (A House Democratic memo lists several lines of attack Democrats could use against Republicans.)
- Last, but not least, urge voters to see the bigger picture which, Democrats insist, is that they are the party, not the GOP, that truly wants to help improve the lives of most Americans.
Whether this approach will work to keep House Democrats from losing ground in the House, or Senate Democrats from losing their majority, will be answered in November. But Democrats see this as their strategy for the foreseeable future.
"Ultimately, I think the Affordable Care Act is an issue that fits into a broader conversation that is going to happen in 2014," said Emily Bittner, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "And that is, when voters go to the polls in 2014 and they are pulling the lever, whatever their voting mechanism is, they're asking who's on my side? Who is fighting for me? Who's got my back?
"The Affordable Care Act is one of the issues where they can say the Democrats are fighting for them. But there are other issues out there, too, like raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance benefit. Pay equity for women. So we think the election will be fought on a broader spectrum and framework of issues."
That wider framework was captured in a video narrated by civil-rights icon Rep. John Lewis that House Democrats saw at their retreat outside Washington last week and which was publicly released on Tuesday.
While Democrats are trying to widen the focus to include other issues, the GOP wants to keep it tightly focused on the ACA. Republicans scoff at Democratic promises to smooth the law's rough places and claims that the GOP would return health care to the bad old days when insurers ran roughshod over the insured and their families.
"I saw their memo and I believe it's complete baloney," said Daniel Scarpinato, national press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "If you look at what is actually happening and outside of the spin of what they're putting in their memos and what's actually happening on the ground, on TV with ads the Democrats have launched already, they're completely in defensive mode and they're not embracing Obamacare.
"They're finding ways to try to trick voters into thinking that their members have been somehow calling out Obamacare."