Walker Ad Touts Stabilization of Health Law He Assailed
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has railed against Obamacare for years and pledged as a presidential candidate to send repeal legislation to Congress on Day One, if elected. But now running for a third term, Walker is promoting his plan to stabilize the program’s insurance markets in his state.
In a new television ad first shared with RealClearPolitics, the Republican governor touts a $200 million investment he signed into law in February aimed at lowering premiums in the state "because we can’t wait for Washington to get the job done." The ad also features a physician lamenting rising health care costs under the Affordable Care Act and arguing that "Washington politicians keep promising to fix the problem, but it never happens."
The 30-second spot reveals several notable dynamics in play during this year's midterm elections. For starters, it signals how the Republican majority’s failure to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a better policy has put states and governors in a tough spot. The party’s failure could depress turnout among base voters, some grassroots activists have warned. And it has deepened intraparty tensions, giving outsider politicians an opening to run against a GOP-controlled Washington and spotlight congressional inaction. Democrats, meanwhile, see health care as a top driver of their voters in November.
Walker is running in a state Trump narrowly carried. But his health care ad and others promoting bipartisan solutions to the opioid crisis, training workers, and helping disabled students enter the workforce underscore how one Republican governor sees a path to victory in a potentially anti-Republican year.
Walker has been sounding the alarm for his party heading into the midterms. After a Democrat won a January special election for a state Senate seat in a district Trump overwhelmingly won, he warned it was a "wake-up call" for Republicans in Wisconsin. After a liberal candidate for the state Supreme Court in April defeated the conservative candidate Walker had backed, the governor issued a series of tweets warning of a #BlueWave.
He hasn't backed off his opposition to Obamacare. At the same time he signed the marketplace stabilization package into law, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel took the lead in filing a federal lawsuit with 20 other states challenging the constitutionality of the ACA now that the individual mandate tax penalty has been repealed by the GOP tax overhaul.
In promoting his health coverage plan, Walker argued that "Wisconsin families need stability, especially when it comes to their health care."
But Democrats have argued that Walker's support of Republican efforts to undermine the law created the instability. "Gov. Scott Walker is trumpeting his election year attempt to disguise just how utterly damaging his years of fighting the Affordable Care Act have been and the toll Republican sabotage on health care has taken on Wisconsin families," the state Democratic Party said in a statement after the February bill signing.
Walker is no stranger to tough elections and withstood a recall challenge in 2012. But 2018 could be his most difficult race yet. As many as 10 Democrats have launched bids to challenge him in November. But none has emerged as a frontrunner, and many of the candidates aren't well known. The fact that the primary isn't until August gives Walker an advantage of building up his campaign war chest and messaging without any firm opposition.
The state is also hosting a highly competitive and expensive U.S. Senate race that could help drive turnout, with Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin up for re-election. State Sen. Leah Vukmir and Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson are running for the Republican nomination.