Republicans haven't stopped targeting Democrats on healthcare even after their failure to repeal Obamacare.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, is running digital ads in eight states hitting Democrats for supporting the creation of what is called a single-payer healthcare system. Democrats have been adopting support for such a government-run system in the U.S. with increasing frequency, a position to the left of Obamacare and closer to the socialized medicine seen in other countries.
House Republicans believe the position could hurt Democratic candidates in 2018, despite their party's failure to replace former President Barack Obama's healthcare law after years of promising, not to mention infighting, over what to do next to address America's ailing medical system.
Republican insiders concede the oddity of running on healthcare given their paralysis on the issue. But they say internal polling has revealed Democrats are vulnerable on single-payer in targeted districts.
"We like the contrast between our bill and single-payer. The ads write themselves, pulling all these Democratic candidates in their huge primaries left and makes them unelectable in a general," a Republican operative said, referring to GOP legislation to partially repeal Obamacare that passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
The operative, who has viewed the polling but declined to disclose its findings, said surveys in July showed that in competitive House districts, "when both the GOP healthcare proposal and single-payer proposal were described to respondents, respondents disapproved of single-payer in stronger numbers."
The NRCC is investing six figures to run the digital ad "Control" in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, and Virginia. The attack features House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the perils of putting healthcare under government control. The spot includes news clips of Charlie Gard, a since-deceased baby born with severe birth defects, whose parents fought with the British government over whether the country's government health service would allow the child access to potentially life-saving treatment.
"Big government has destroyed the American healthcare system as we know it. But it gets worse," the spot's voiceover says. "A new plan brought to you by the same Democrats who gave us Obamacare."
"Tell Nancy Pelosi and California Democrats we can't afford single-payer healthcare," the voiceover says, upon the ad's conclusion. Democrats say the spot is laughable given the Republicans recent healthcare stumbles. However, they're quick to point out that not all Democratic candidates will embrace single-payer healthcare. Some will and some won't, depending on the district they're running in.
"Republicans have lost all credibility on healthcare with this repeal disaster," said Tyler Law, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party's House campaign organization. "To think they can keep talking about healthcare and have that be a winning issue heading into the midterms, they're sorely mistaken."
Democrats need to win a net of 24 seats to win back the House majority.
The American Health Care Act cleared the House in late spring, but the GOP's' Obamacare repeal effort is on the fritz indefinitely after legislation pushed by Senate Republicans fell one vote short of passage in late July. That comes as President Trump's job approval numbers have hit record lows.
The effort unfolded over seven months, during which the Affordable Care Act's low approval numbers improved to the point where the law is now more popular than unpopular for the first time since it was enacted in 2010. Plus, the public has given a resounding thumbs down to the Republican alternatives.
That could give Democrats the advantage on healthcare, after losing big to the GOP in three of the last four elections partly because of public dissatisfaction with Obamacare.
But Republicans are staying on offense, arguing that the Democrats' leftward lurch on the issue to embrace a government-run system opens a new line of attack for the GOP. Republicans hope they can force the issue to be one that Democrats fight over in party primaries next year.
"European-style single-payer healthcare is the new litmus test in the Democratic Party," NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman said in a statement. "Every day from today until Election Day, Democrats will be forced to answer whether they support this disastrous plan..."