A Top Issue in Dem Gov Primary: Who Screwed Up Our Obamacare Website?

In a strange twist during this year’s election cycle, one candidate vying for the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor is attacking another for the state’s botched Obamacare rollout.

Doug Gansler, Maryland’s attorney general, is battling Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown for the Democratic nod. A big part of Gansler’s strategy seems to be blaming Brown for the poor launch of the state’s Obamacare marketplace, which Brown had taken a primary role in creating.

The Gansler campaign has gone up with a pair of television ads in the last two weeks, implicitly criticizing Brown. As TPM has reported, the Maryland website has experienced one of the worst rollouts among the 14 state-run marketplaces. A federal investigation is underway.

“The cost of Maryland’s health care website mess is the impact on real people who need chemotherapy, heart medicine or care for a child but can’t get it,” Gansler says in one of the ads. “As governor, I won’t accept that failure. People need health care. I’ll get it done.”

The ads are part of a six-figure buy in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets, according to the Gansler campaign.

If the Brown criticism is implicit in the ads themselves, some context makes clear that Gansler, who is undoubtedly the underdog, is going hard after Brown, who has been serving as second-in-command for departing Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). When the ad above debuted, Gansler’s campaign also launched a website: “Did Anthony Brown Come Clean Today?” It ripped “Brown’s failed health exchange.”

Gansler also called for greater oversight of the exchange last Thursday, asking its board to submit all its contracts for official review.

“Not a single answer from Lt. Governor Anthony Brown about why thousands of Marylanders have no health insurance and are left footing a nearly $200 million bill,” Gansler said in a statement. “It’s the very least Lt. Governor Brown and the exchange board can do for the people of Maryland, who are still seeking answers about why the exchange was such an utter disaster.”

The Brown campaign has been largely subdued in responding to Gansler’s attacks, according to the Baltimore Sun, though it has promised that retaliation on the airwaves is coming. It also dispatched a top ally — Jim Messina, who ran President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign — to respond to Gansler.

“Taking a page out of the Republican playbook, Doug Gansler has made false attacks and tried to tear down Obamacare, rather than working to find solutions,” Messina said in a statement, according to the Sun, also talking up the 313,000 sign-ups on the exchange. “While Doug Gansler sat on the sidelines, Anthony Brown took on the challenges of Maryland’s health exchange. … True leadership is finding solutions, and that is Anthony Brown’s record.”

Public polling has found Brown with an obvious advantage; The Real Clear Politics tracking shows Brown with a 19-point edge in the most recent poll from February, though the Sun noted that many voters are undecided. The Gansler campaign, however, released internal polling last week that shows Brown with a 9-point lead.

The Maryland Democratic primary is June 24.