Obamacare woes pit Democrats against Democrats in liberal states

Glitches in states hit incumbents

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“Really, it’s more ammo for the primary opponents in the Democratic Party,” Republican Party strategist Ford O’Connell said.

State Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is using the Maryland Health Connection’s problems against his Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who oversaw the Obamacare rollout, in the race to succeed Mr. O'Malley.

Mr. Gansler last month called on state officials to let residents use HealthCare.gov instead of the state website, citing reports that Medicaid enrollment forms were sent to the wrong addresses and that a customer help line mistakenly sent callers to a Seattle pottery business.

Indeed, Mr. Gansler’s attacks on Obamacare implementation have become so vigorous that the Brown campaign is puling out the “R-word.”

“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, to see Doug Gansler parroting right-wing Republican attacks on Obamacare,” Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said. “Lt. Gov. Brown remains focused on addressing the challenges of its implementation so that we can extend health care coverage to as many Marylanders as possible.”

Still, Mr. Brown holds a lead in Maryland polls and has two opponents who should carve up the “anti-Brown” vote and pave the way for victory in a heavily Democratic state, said Donald F. Norris, chairman of the public policy department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“If he does win and the website continues to have problems the GOP nominee, whoever that is, will certainly use [Obamacare issues] against him, though I can’t imagine that that alone would cause him to lose,” he said.

For Mr. O'Malley, Maryland’s health care exchange problems could hamper a potential White House campaign in 2016 against likely Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College, said the question for Mr. O'Malley is, what will the exchange look like “a year and a half from now?”

“Do I think [Mr. O'Malley] would rather run and not have that as a problem? Sure,” he said. “But he’s got a bigger problem, and that’s Hillary.”

Democratic strategist Jim Manley said Republican challengers in liberal states can get only so far with an anti-Obamacare message as states tackle the glitches on their health care portals.

“I’m confident it’s going to be working like it should and people are going to get the benefit out of it,” he said.

In Minnesota, Mr. Dayton is doubling down on health care reform ahead of his re-election bid.

“Unlike his Republican opponents who want to go back to the days of no coverage for pre-existing conditions and bankruptcies from health care bills, Gov. Dayton is working to make sure that all Minnesotans have access to the health care they need,” campaign spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said.

The Republican Governors Association on Wednesday called on Oregon Gov. John A. Kitzhaber, who is seeking a fourth term this year, to answer for Cover Oregon’s failings, its costs and whether its architect had the best track record. Despite those concerns, the Democratic incumbent can take heart in the fact that Oregonians have not elected a Republican governor since 1982.

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