Forget Trump's closing argument, Democrats should play the game they're winning: health care
On Thursday, Trump explicitly told us which issue he wanted everyone to forget about—health care and pre-existing conditions coverage. “All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them,” he tweeted. “I am in total support. Also, Democrats will destroy your Medicare, and I will keep it healthy and well!”
Why is he trying to blunt all the healthcare talk? Because the GOP’s repeated efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and its guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is killing their chances of maintaining unified control of the federal government. Not only did the Trumpcare bill they desperately tried but failed to pass gut pre-existing condition coverage, the Trump administration is fervently backing a legal effort to strike down that very provision.
That’s a problem, because 70 percent of voters in the latest CBS tracking poll named health care as the top issue driving their vote. Additionally, Democrats have been running on improving access to health care for over a year now—it is their 2018 message despite what the Washington pundits tell you. In a Wesleyan survey of ads released this week, 54.5 percent of pro-Democratic ads feature health care as an issue, while pro-Republican ads have keyed the issue only 31.5 percent of the time.
And at least some of those Republican ads have been an effort to allay fears that electing GOP candidates will lead to a dismantling of pre-existing condition coverage. The New York Times reported earlier this week that after many GOP candidates barely mentioned health care for most of their campaigns, Republicans have now released “a wave of ads” pledging they will preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
This is the definition of playing offense. You play your game on the field that you want to play on, and then you win the argument, thereby forcing the other team to play the game you are already winning.
The field Trump clearly wants to be playing on is immigration and, perhaps more generally, the politics of grievance and fear. It’s what he woke up tweeting about Thursday and then filled his Montana rally with later that night.
It’s a jingling of the keys, if you will, to distract from the place where Democrats are having real success. And at least one political observer fell for it. Mark Murray at NBC News wrote Friday that Trump’s Montana rally Thursday night was a 2016 redux of his closing arguments that cycle—full of conspiracy theories and violence stoking.