- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

House Republicans have targeted vulnerable Democrats, such as the health care reform plan’s “flip-flop five” and “Stupak sellouts,” who they think will lead them to victories in this fall’s midterm elections.

With President Obama’s health care overhaul plan signed into law, both parties are searching for political gain from the historic but controversial new law and furiously raising cash for a November showdown.

Democrats plan to focus on popular items in the legislation Mr. Obama signed into law on Tuesday, such as small-business tax credits and a ban on denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, both of which go into effect soon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an e-mail Tuesday to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee supporters, asked for $1 million in donations to help defend “the courageous Democratic House members who made this change possible.” The Republican National Committee has raised more than $1 million since Sunday in a campaign to gain 40 seats and “fire” Mrs. Pelosi.

Washington pollster Charlie Cook said in a column in Tuesday’s CongressDaily that the positives and negatives of the bill - that Democrats have a huge legislative victory and Republicans have voter anger to tap into - essentially neutralize each other.

“So my money is on Sunday’s vote not fundamentally changing the dynamics of the 2010 campaign,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean both sides won’t try.

Republicans hope to capitalize on the bill’s poor poll numbers, particularly in swing House districts held by Democrats, coalescing on a “repeal and replace” slogan.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is focusing on 44 Democratic incumbents that it thinks are vulnerable because they supported the health care reform bill. Republicans would need a net gain of 40 seats to reclaim control of the House.

“The goal is to make sure that Democrats are held accountable for the vote they made on Sunday for the next seven months,” said NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay.

The NRCC has already dubbed a “flip-flop five” - Reps. Scott Murphy of New York, John Boccierri of Ohio, Allen Boyd of Florida, Suzanne M. Kosmas of Florida and Betsy Markey of Colorado - who voted against the House’s health bill in November, but for the Senate’s bill this week. An NRCC official said the group is “especially” susceptible to the argument that they gave in to strong-arm tactics from top Democrats.

Republicans also plan to target what they’re calling the “Stupak sellouts” - the Democrats who, led by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, argued that the Senate bill authorized the federal funding of abortions until Mr. Obama said he would sign an executive order reaffirming that the bill did not. Mr. Stupak, a longtime pro-life advocate, said the executive order alleviated his concerns.

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Tuesday that her political action committee has established a “Take Back the 20” campaign to reclaim 20 Democratic seats, many overlapping with the NRCC’s effort.

“We’re going to reclaim the power of the people from those who disregarded the will of the people,” Mrs. Palin said in a Facebook note to supporters.

But Democrats are preparing to put just as much of a focus on selling the plan to the American public. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen said Monday that he expects public polls to rebound in favor of the plan as Americans begin to learn more about the legislation.

“People are now, some of them for the first time, realizing all the good things that are in this bill because we’re going to be able to start clearing away the smoke and clutter and misinformation that was put out there,” Mr. Van Hollen said.

He predicted that the Republican argument to repeal the measures won’t go over well with voters.

“I don’t think people are going to want to turn back the clock and put the insurance industry back in charge of their health and their lives,” he said. “Who am I to give political advice to my Republican colleagues? But if they want to have this fight, and they want to stand with the insurance companies against consumers, we’re happy to have that fight.”

Democrats have warned that they plan to to hit hard against Republicans who pledge to repeal the law, which could be a tough decision for moderate Republicans in primaries with conservative “tea party” candidates.

“House Republicans and their desperate candidates will be the ones on defense for their countless lies on behalf of the health insurance industry and for joining with right-wing extremists trying to repeal tax credits to small businesses, the elimination of the [Medicare prescription-drug “doughtnut hole”] for seniors, and for trying to roll back reducing the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over 20 years,” said DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer.

Outside groups that supported the health plan have already lined up to back Democrats who may be vulnerable because of their vote in favor of the law.

The AFL-CIO on Tuesday started robo-calls to 1 million activists and union members in swing districts, asking them to contact their member of Congress and thank them for their vote.

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