Is Right-Wing Mobilization On Health Care Against Targeted House Dems Working?

Conservative groups have been targeting key House Democrats in an ad campaign to stop the health care bill. So how much of it is working — and how much of it is just annoying the offices involved?

A key example in the last week has been from a group called the League of American Voters, headed up by Dick Morris. The group has run a set of ads against swing-seat Democrats who voted for the bill. Targeted members have been Mike Arcuri (NY), Chris Carney (PA), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA), Baron Hill (IN), Steve Kagen (WI), Paul Kanjorski (PA), Dan Maffei (NY), Alan Mollohan (WV), Tom Perriello (VA), Nick Rahall (WV), and Mark Schauer (MI). The ad was later changed after Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) complained that the ad claimed he had already voted for an excise tax on health care benefits, which was in the Senate bill and not the House version that he did in fact support.A Democratic leadership aide told TPMDC that the overall campaign against the bill could have a real impact, and criticized the lack of a similar effort by liberals. “If what they’re hearing, even if it’s totally manufactured, is from conservative groups opposing reform, and you’re seeing TV ads going after reform, that could play a role, down the line I think, in terms of them making a decision,” said the aide, also adding. “You always want to feel as if there is some support out there. I don’t get a sense right now that there is a similar effort with reform advocates to counter what is going on on the right, and not only counter it but punch it back even harder.”

Another Democratic source said: “It’s a lot of noise, but in order to cancel out the noise there should definitely be more air cover coming from the left.”

Here is the Morris ad in question:

Morris has also been operating an e-mail campaign to have people across the country call members of Congress. One staffer for an unnamed targeted representative said that the office has been inundated with calls from outside the district, including at least one caller from another state who specifically cited the Morris e-mail campaign as the reason for their call.

If anything, the staffer said that the volume of calls from outside the district have led to a different perspective on the calls from inside the district, which have been a mix of both positive and negative comments about the bill. “Looking back on the last few days, it’s actually the impression for us that our district is much more moderate than we thought,” the staffer said, also adding: “I think people who inundate us from outside the district aren’t terribly effective to make their argument. Maybe there are people from inside our district who have tried to call us, but the phone lines are jammed up.”

Jessica Barba, press secretary for Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), said that on the office’s tally from this past Thursday, 88% of calls to the office came from outside the district. “We believe that we have had more calls in support of health are from inside our own district,” said Barba.

Barba also said that the phone calls from outside the district are interfering with the real business of the office: “We’ll get a constituent calling in the middle of all the phones ringing off the hook and say, ‘I’ve tried a few times, and I’m trying to talk to somebody about Social Security.’ So they’re getting caught in the mess.'”

The League of American voters did not return our requests for comment.