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The Brett Kavanaugh hearings are mercifully over and nobody is more thankful than Democrats like Elissa Slotkin running in competitive seats.
Democrats like the 8th Congressional District nominee don’t want anything to do with such a flashfire topic as “who was telling the truth? Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford.” They want to talk about something more politically advantageous (and relevant) to them among critical independent voters. A subject like health care.
Bishop and Slotkin stayed far away from Kavanaugh’s weekend confirmation during their WDIV TV “Flashpoint” debate Sunday on the Detroit station. Bishop was bent on linking Slotkin to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose popularity numbers are well south of President Donald Trump’s.
Slotkin wants to talk about congressional Republicans’ doomed American Health Care Act, their repeal-and-replace answer for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
On Tuesday, Slotkin released a 30-second TV ad featuring six Michiganders with pre-existing conditions. She says their health care and that of 300,000 constituents would have been in jeopardy if the Republicans’ plan had become law.
“I approve this message because, Mr. Bishop, the health of our families should be more important than partisan politics,” Slotkin directly tells the camera.
The shot is similar to the closing of her first ad, where she looks at the viewer when saying “gutting protections for pre-existing” was a “dereliction of duty and it’s a fireable offense.”
During the Bishop-Slotkin debate on WDIV’s “Flashpoint, “Bishop pushed back on this claim by saying his wife was born with a pre-existing condition — juvenile rheumatoid arthritis — and he would have never signed off on a bill that left people uncovered.
“ When I voted for that bill, there is no way I would have voted for it if it didn’t include protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” he said, before preceding to haul out a copy of the bill and read it on air.
To that, Slotkin said the Republicans’ offering still allowed those with pre-existing conditions be priced out of the market.
Before the passage of the ACA, she said her mother couldn’t afford her health insurance when she lost her job in 2002 because she had had cancer years prior.
“That’s not making it affordable,” she said.
The independent fact-checking website Politifact wrote that the AHCA “would allow for people with pre-existing conditions to be charged more per year for their insurance coverage — possibly to the tune of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars more per year.”
Bishop’s point has been that insurance costs are high under the ACA, a reason he supported efforts in Washington, to reform it.
The Republicans’ answer in Congress was to steer these patients into high-risk pools to assist with any additional costs they may have incurred under their plan. Whether that would have kept insurance bills down for these folks with pre-existing conditions is a subject of debate.
What isn’t debatable is that marginal Michigan Democratic candidates — not incumbents in safe blue California or New York districts — were not being helped by the Kavanaugh spectacle.
Last week’s New York Times’ survey on Michigan’s 11th Congressional race showed the margin by which Democrat Haley Stevens leads Republican Lena Epstein shrinking over the six days of the polling. Her once double-digit lead ended up shrinking to eight points. Slotkin, too, over the six days of the Times’ poll in the 8th District was up — well within the margin of error — twice during the course of the poll, only to finish three points down to Bishop by Oct. 3.
Many factors played into these results, but Kavanaugh being spit-roasted over an open senatorial fire wasn’t moving numbers for either congressional hopeful.
“When you’re in a marginal seat, you have to focus on the issues,” said Ed Sarpolus of Target Insyght, a pollster of more than 30 years. “If I’m a Democrat, I have to talk about the issues, not Kavanaugh.”
Democratic interest groups realize that, too. Last week, a pro-ACA group called “Protect Our Care,” rolled into Lansing as part of a six-week trip across 23 mostly swing states.
Fueled by predominately union money, the “Protect Our Care” train stopped in front of the Capitol, where cancer survivors took turns with mid-Michigan public officials beating Bishop over the head for wanting to “gut” the ACA.
“Mike Bishop is my representative, but he doesn’t represent me,” said cancer survivor Amanda Itliong.
The bus tour didn’t get near the coverage as the Kavanuagh hearings, but the point remains. Slotkin and her supporters are eager to change the subject.
(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol newsletter MIRS is at firstname.lastname@example.org.)