The Democrat Running on Obamacare

Rep. Allyson Schwartz
National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
April 23, 2014, 11:34 a.m.

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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