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The Democrat Running on Obamacare

Rep. Allyson Schwartz(Chet Susslin)

Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz doubled down Wednesday on her outspoken defense of Obamacare, challenging her opponents in the multicandidate primary to speak up and take pride in a law many Democrats have shied away from embracing. In a 30-minute call with reporters, Schwartz vigorously defended the law's successes and promised voters would hear more of the same on the campaign trail.

"I will say it quite a few more times in this campaign: I'm very proud of my work on the Affordable Care Act," said Schwartz, who as a congresswoman was the only candidate in the Democratic field to actually vote for the measure.

Earlier this week, Schwartz released a new TV ad touting the ACA, one of the few Democrats to go out of her way to support a law that's unpopular with most voters. Her pivot to put the issue front and center makes her the most prominent Democrat in the country to do so this cycle, and turns the heat up on other Democrats in Pennsylvania and nationwide who have scrambled to dodge the law's more controversial aspects.

 

For Schwartz, publicly backing the law also represents a gambit that its relative popularity with Democrats will help her make up ground in the primary, where she trails the front-running former state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf. She repeatedly called out Wolf for being "evasive" and "quiet" about the law and questioned whether voters could trust him to defend and carry out the full breadth of the law's potential.

"I have not heard that from anyone else, certainly not from Tom Corbett and not from the other Democrats either," Schwartz said.

During the call, Schwartz ticked off a list of the law's positives, including a ban on denying insurance coverage to children with preexisting conditions, closure of the donut hole on prescription-drug coverage for seniors, and provisions that not only benefit the working poor but improve the quality and bring down the cost of plans offered through private insurers. Republican efforts to repeal the law in its entirety would deny Americans of those broader improvements, she said, not just halt its more controversial elements.

Critics have suggested that Schwartz's ad isn't risky becuase she's using it in a Democratic primary in a state where the party still likes President Obama. But Schwartz made it clear that were she to win the May 20 primary, she would campaign just as aggressively on the law's positives in the general election against Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

"In the general election I will go toe-to toe with Tom Corbett on implementation of the ACA," she said. "I'm happy to have that debate and I'm looking forward to having that debate."

Schwartz's strategy will please many progressive Democrats, who have urged the party to aggressively embrace the law and its positive, and a certain former president. In a March interview with Real Clear Politics, Bill Clinton told Democrats to stop running away from the law's problems and start standing up for its successes. He called Democrats' "tendency to shy away from things they had done that were unpopular" a "mistake."

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