Here’s a headline to ponder: “Democratic group’s poll shows Trump vulnerable with his base on health care: American Bridge is planning a $50 million advertising campaign targeting small-town Trump supporters and swing voters.”
That headline appeared in Politico on June 24; the article explained that the goal of the Democratic group American Bridge is to chip away at Trump’s percentages in red rural areas. As American Bridge’s president, Bradley Beychok, said, “We’re trying to go from losing these segments [of voters] 85-15 to maybe 75-25.”
Such a nibble-around-the-edges strategy could bear fruit. For instance, in 2016, Donald Trump won 82 percent of the vote in Sioux County, Iowa, giving him a margin in that county of more than 12,000 votes. In the meantime, Trump won Iowa with only 52 percent, a mere 48,000 votes out of nearly a million-and-a-half ballots cast. So if American Bridge really could chisel down Trump’s supermajority numbers, the Democrats might succeed in flipping the Hawkeye State next year.
According to Politico, health care is the wedge-issue that American Bridge intends to wedge wider. Relying on American Bridge data, the article reports:
Just 25 percent of respondents gave Trump a positive rating for “reducing health care costs,” compared to 67 percent who rated him negatively, while they split against Trump 39-51 on “taking on the drug and pharmaceutical companies.”
Now American Bridge, of course, is a group founded by David Brock, the Bill Clinton-basher-turned-fanboy-turned-high-dollar-fundraiser-turned-Hillary Clinton-groupie. Indeed, Brock was so flagrantly out front for Hillary in 2016 that the Washington Post blasted him in a piece entitled, “One Hillary Clinton supporter’s rotten political empire.” The article approvingly quoted Sen. Bernie Sanders calling Brock “the scum of the earth.” (Over the years, many Breitbart News writers have closely chronicled Brock.)
Indeed, because Brock is such a creature of the bicoastal elites, it’s a safe bet that American Bridge will never mention him in its advertisements. So while Brock is spending his time in the Hamptons and Beverly Hills, plotting his next six- or seven-figure soirée, Republicans would be smart to keep reminding folks who it is that’s giving Brocks his bucks. For instance, George Soros, having already given millions to American Bridge, just last year gave the group another $300,000.
Yet if American Bridge can keep its focus on health care—and if Republican “oppo” groups aren’t paying close enough attention—then Brock and his money could put a dent in Trump and the GOP. Why? Because the Democrats have the edge on health care.
We might consider: In last year’s midterm election, health care was the single most important issue, both in terms of campaign advertising and voters’ intentions, as measured by exit polling. And, of course, in November, the Democrats did well, picking up 41 House seats, seven governorships, and six state-legislative chambers. (At the same time, the GOP scored a net of plus two in the U.S. Senate, so the news wasn’t all bad.)
Thus we can see: The Democrats want to talk about health care, and American Bridge is eager to amplify that message.
Yet in fact, Democrats weren’t always eager to talk about health care. Just a decade ago, in 2009-2010, President Obama and his party struggled to get a national health-insurance bill passed, and as they slogged, pushing their unpopular legislation, the Tea Party erupted. As a result, the Democrats got clobbered in the 2010 midterm elections. And although Obama was re-elected in 2012, two years later in 2014, the Republicans won another big midterm victory. And of course, 2016 saw the triumph of Trump.
Interestingly, these shifting electoral fortunes closely correlate with support for Obamacare, as measured by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s monthly tracking poll. A look at the numbers shows that Obamacare was “underwater” for most of the time from 2010 to the end of 2016—although it blipped up in 2012, as voters rallied around Obama’s personal re-election. Yet at its low point, in July 2014, Obamacare was down massively, by a net of 16 points.
Yet then, after the 2016 election, support for Obamacare started to rise. Over the last two-and-a-half years, its net favorability has reached as high as plus 12 points, and as of June 2019, it was plus six.
So now we’re starting to see why Trump and the Republicans have been mostly frustrated in their push to repeal-and-replace—or at least repeal—Obamacare. (This author wrote extensively about that GOP effort in 2017-2018, including here.)
To put the matter bluntly, Obamacare has been finally becoming popular. And that popularity helps explain why a recent AP-NORC poll found that 40 percent of Americans trust Democrats on health care, compared to just 23 percent who trust Republicans. That’s a 17-point gap in favor of the Dems, enough to cool down the repeal-and-replace ardor of most Republicans.
Indeed, these days, as “Medicare for All” increasingly supplants Obamacare as the Democrats’ big goal, it’s worth watching a broader metric of public enthusiasm for national health insurance. According to Gallup, when Americans are asked whether or not “it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure Americans have healthcare coverage,” 57 percent say, yes, Uncle Sam has that responsibility.
To be sure, such Bernie Sanders-friendly numbers aren’t the final word—there’s never a final word in politics. And so as the Democrats prepare a massive new health bill, Republicans should be ready with their calculators, their microscopes, and their fine-toothed combs.
Yet for the time being, when there are no specifics to be scrutinized, we can see from the polling numbers that American Bridge, hammering the healthcare issue in rural areas, could have a significant impact.
Interestingly, despite the overall lack of GOP enthusiasm for the issue, the Trump administration has been active on health care, issuing regulations aimed at improving consumer choice in health insurance markets, reducing pharmaceutical costs, and increasing price transparency. These are all interesting ideas—although, of course, each is controversial; as the last decade has taught us, every significant health-policy choice is a difficult tradeoff.
So now, looking ahead, we can see the decision on health care that the voters will likely face in 2020:
The Democrats will vaguely promise every American free healthcare coverage; perhaps their plan will look a lot like the plan enjoyed by grandma and grandpa—that is, Medicare for All.
The Republican plan will vaguely promise every American access to a free-market health-insurance plan, including vague commitments about protecting those with pre-existing conditions.
So what will happen? Which approach will the voters choose? We don’t yet know, of course. So perhaps in the meantime, we should put it this way: For the sake of Republicans, it’s a good thing that there are issues other than health care to be debated. That is, issues ranging from the economy, to Iran, to the Supreme Court, to the latest dumb thing said by AOC. One rather suspects that Trump and the GOP will be campaigning harder on those hot buttons than on health care.
Of course, there is one healthcare issue that’s supremely, albeit somewhat vaguely, popular: medical cures. After all, everyone wants to be healthier.
In his 2019 State of the Union Address, Trump spent considerable time highlighting a proposal for a new special effort to fight pediatric cancers, and he received sustained bipartisan applause. Sadly, not much has been heard about that idea since.
Indeed, in some alternative presidential timeline, it might have been possible for Trump to launch a whole “Cure Strategy,” coordinating public and private efforts on behalf of medical research. Such a Cure Strategy would help shift the debate from the difficult topic of Obamacare, pro or con, to the happier topic of making disease go away, just as we once made polio go away. As this author has argued many times here at Breitbart News, health insurance is great, but health itself is greater.
Of course, by now, in mid-2019, it might be too late to gin up a comprehensive approach to a Cure Strategy in time for the 2020 elections. Such a strategy, after all, would require cooperation from the Democrats in Congress, and they’re in no mood to help Trump on anything. We can hope that the “window of opportunity” will open up again after the 2020 election.
Yet in the meantime, as Brock’s American Bridge ads pound Trump and the GOP on health care, let’s not forget to mention: George Soros and his fellow left-wing billionaires are funding American Bridge.