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Democrats More Optimistic on Politics of U.S. Health-Care Law

By Lisa Lerer

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Some Democrats are optimistic that the new health-care law is shifting from a political liability to more neutral ground in this year’s U.S. elections.

With enrollments in insurance plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rising and polls showing that most Americans want to keep the law, Democrats are increasingly encouraged that they have defused some of the criticism over the botched rollout of Obamacare last year.

“The American people fundamentally reject the Republican argument that we should repeal the Affordable Care Act,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said yesterday on a conference call. “We feel good about how we’ll transact that argument.”

The number of people signing up for private insurance under the law has surged, with 910,000 in the last month alone. In total, 8 million people bought coverage on federal marketplaces through April 19, the government said on May 1.

Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the law and have made it a central issue in the midterm elections. While the increased enrollments have failed to build a wave of support for Obamacare and many Democrats are avoiding the issue, the public wants to keep it largely intact.

Just 21 percent of Americans want Obamacare “totally eliminated,” while 40 percent said it needs minor modifications, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted April 23-27. At the same time, 46 percent said the law was a bad idea, compared with 49 percent the previous month. Thirty-six percent said it was a good idea.

Cautious Embrace

In this year’s congressional elections, Democrats in at least four states are cautiously embracing the new law by highlighting the negative consequences if Republicans were to follow through on their promise to repeal it.

In Alaska, a spot by an outside group backing Democratic Senator Mark Begich features a breast cancer survivor running on frozen trails.

“I now have health insurance again because of Mark Begich,” says the woman in the commercial.

Representative Allyson Schwartz, a Pennsylvania Democrat running for governor, ran an ad highlighting her work on the health-care bill.

“I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act and getting health coverage to all Americans,” Schwartz says in the ad, which features images of her with President Barack Obama. “It was my legislation that said insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for kids with preexisting conditions.”

Elizabeth Jensen, a Democrat running for Congress in Kentucky, and supporters of Representative Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat, are also running ads on Obamacare.

Republicans are countering with ads of their own. So far, roughly 75 percent of the commercials aired on network television by Republican candidates for U.S. House and Senate seats have an anti-Obamacare message, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG data.

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