Thursday, November 1, 2007

House Democrats are again trying to make a children’s health care bill an election issue, running advertisements against seven vulnerable Republican lawmakers who voted to sustain President Bush‘s veto of the measure.

“Across the country, Republicans are feeling the heat for supporting President Bush instead of the health care for America’s kids,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

It’s the DCCC’s fourth ad buy related to the State Children”s Health Insurance Program and will run on radio, text messaging and e-mail for one week in seven states against the incumbent Republican lawmakers rated as vulnerable in various independent national House rankings.

Republicans responded by saying that Democrats are not interested in an actual compromise on the SCHIP bill, and are privately hoping to use the protracted debate as a campaign wedge issue.

“You’d think that if Democrats have the time for a fourth round of attack ads on this, they’d have time to come to the table for a compromise,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Julie Shutley.

Some of the more prominent buys come against Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, where Republicans appear especially vulnerable this year after a series of retirements, and against Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, who has been one of his party’s leaders on issues of fiscal conservatism.

“The day Chabot voted to sustain President Bush’s veto, it was announced that Bush would be holding a fundraiser for Chabot,” reads the text of the ad against Mr. Chabot, who is in his seventh term representing Cincinnati. “This past Monday, Congressman Steve Chabot’s loyalty to George Bush was rewarded.”

Ms. Shutley said that Democrats are misleading voters by focusing on Mr. Bush because he will not be on the ballot in 2008 and that Republican lawmakers who voted against the Democrats’ SCHIP expansion bill have done a “good job” of explaining their position to constituents.

The Ohio Democratic Party, however, also has been going after Mr. Chabot for his loyalty to the president. Spokesman Randy Borntrager described Mr. Chabot as a “parrot” of Mr. Bush and said his vote to sustain the president’s SCHIP veto demonstrates he is “out of touch” with district voters.

The ads begin as the House and Senate Democratic campaigns announced yesterday that they are “aggressively targeting” about 40 Republican-held districts the DCCC says are vulnerable, less than two years after Democrats captured the House for the first time in 12 years.

“We’re not just sitting around trying to consolidate our gains,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “Already today you’re looking at a playing field that is substantially larger” than it was in 2006.

The other Republicans targeted in the DCCC ad buy are Rep. Richard H. Baker of Louisiana, Kenny Hulshof of Missouri, Ric Keller of Florida, Joe Knollenberg of Michigan and Peter Roskam of Illinois.

Sean Lengell contributed to this report.

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