New Ad Muddies Whether McConnell Wants To Fix Or Repeal Obamacare

Mitch McConnell has spent the last six months beating off attacks from his Republican primary challenger, who alleges that the Senate minority leader hasn’t done enough to stop — repeal, really — Obamacare.

Which makes a new ad in support of McConnell, released Wednesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a little hard to explain. The words “repeal” or “stop” are nowhere to be found. Instead, the ad touts that McConnell “is leading the fight to fix this Obamacare mess.”

The ad starts by reiterating some of the conservative scare lines about the law — losing a doctor or skyrocketing premiums — and then praises McConnell for his work to “fix this Obamacare mess” by lowering costs and reducing red tape. It ends with a message urging voters to support the senator.

Ironically, that almost sounds like the “fix, don’t repeal” message that Democratic campaigns want to utilize to fend off Republican attacks over the health care reform law, as TPM reported.

Operatives for Matt Bevin, the Kentucky businessman trying to unseat McConnell in the GOP primary, took the opportunity of the new ad to zing the five-term senator again for not supporting Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) enough in their doomed mission to defund Obamacare during the government shutdown last fall.

“Mitch McConnell had the chance to help defeat ObamaCare but chose to oppose Senators’ Lee and Cruz’s effort,” Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for Bevin, told TPM in an email. “Again McConnell’s Kentucky rhetoric doesn’t match his Washington record.”

The ad doesn’t really match McConnell’s rhetoric either. “Obamacare should be repealed root and branch.” McConnell said in a clip included in one of his own campaign ads released in September. Another pro-McConnell ad released in December said the same thing.

In October, in fact, McConnell said that Obamacare was “not fixable” in the midst of HealthCare.gov’s disastrous rollout.

“I don’t think any amount of apologizing on the part of the president is going to fix the core problem here, which is (Obamacare) cannot and will not work,” McConnell, as quoted by AFP, said on Fox News. “They’ve had four years to get ready. It’s clear to me that this isn’t going to work. It’s not fixable.”

To be fair, the Chamber ad isn’t exactly pro-Obamacare either, warning of the prospect of higher insurance premiums and lack of access to doctors. But oddly, the “fix” framing sounds a lot like the message that Democrats told TPM that they’d be pursuing in the 2014 election because the Republican “repeal” position — ostensibly embraced by both McConnell and Bevin — isn’t favored by voters.

One Democratic operative even remarked that their party would be in trouble if Republicans ever adopted a “fix” position.

“If they wanted to win this issue, they would move their public position to be for fix,” the operative said, “and Democrats would be stuck defending the status quo of the law and would be in a much tougher situation.”

The Chamber, which has softened its tone on Obamacare, and McConnell’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. The Hill reported that a “significant” amount of money is being spent on the ad buy.

The full ad is below.

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