RNC To Blanche Lincoln: Don’t Make Us Turn You Into John Kerry

November 9, 2009 10:30 a.m.

As the full focus of the health care debate shifts to the Senate, the GOP has a tough job targeting nervous moderate Democrats. The easy part is taking advantage of Democratic Party rifts. Explaining the rules of parliamentary procedure? That’s hard.

To help, the RNC has turned to a tried-and-true method of shrinking complicated Senate protocol into convenient take-home size. In a new web video out today, the RNC tells health care reform fence-sitter Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) that unless she votes with the Republicans on cloture, they’ll do to her what they did to John Kerry.Republicans want to attack Lincoln for supporting cloture, but also want to slam her for considering a no vote if and when the bill hits the floor. In a new web ad aimed at Lincoln launched today, the RNC raises the specter of Kerry, whose “I actually voted for it before I voted against it” statement about an Iraq War supplemental became the meme of the 2004 elections.

“Remember this?” The ad reads before a clip of Kerry’s infamous “flip-flop” is played.

“Democrat leaders want Senator Blanche Lincoln to use the same tactic to pass President Obama’s government-run health care experiment,” a voice over says.

But Democrats don’t want Lincoln to use the same tactic at all. In 2003, Kerry’s “flip-flop” vote was actually a consistent appeal to the Democratic party’s progressive wing. Kerry, who supported the war, voted the center-left line when it came to funding it: he supported a bill that would pay for the Iraq war by rolling back some of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, and against a bill that didn’t. The bill he supported failed, and the one he opposed, which funded the war but didn’t find a revenue stream to pay for that funding, passed.

Republicans at the time seized on the vote, calling it a “vote against our troops.” Kerry, fearing that message would take hold tried to make it clear he was in favor of funding the troops with his “I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it” line. Republicans said he was trying to have it both ways, appealing to hawks with the first vote, and doves with the second.

Democratic leaders are asking Lincoln to do something very different. Lincoln favors health care reform, and a vote for cloture is the only way to assure the entire Senate debates reform this year. If the bill that comes out of that debate includes a public option, she’ll likely vote no, as she has promised all along.

Ironically, it’s the left who’ll say they’ll actually punish Lincoln for “having it both ways” as Kerry did — if she claims she’s pro-health care reform but helps to kill any chance that the Senate will debate it this year, Democrats say they won’t let her get away with it. Progressive groups like MoveOn.org are planning to target senators from the Democratic caucus who vote against cloture, and they say they’ll have a multi-million dollar war chest with which to do it.

Republicans, on the other had, are promising to paint Lincoln’s consistent position on health care reform as a “flip-flop” if she doesn’t break with her party and vote their way on cloture. They’re suggesting they’ll do to her what they did to Kerry and claim her vote for cloture means she supports a public option — when she actually doesn’t.

Here’s the ad:

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