Here's why I don't worry about healthcare getting lost in Democrats' campaign

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesSen. Bernie Sanders is all about the issues.

  • Democrats are worried that scandal coverage is blocking out issues, like taxes and healthcare, that would do more to push voters to vote for Democrats.
  • That’s true, but Democrats have a tool to get voters to think about healthcare again: paid advertising.
  • Also, scandal stories are probably better for Democrats than month-to-month poll changes suggest.

There’s a conversation I’ve heard over and over among Democrats.

The first step is an expression of worry: The political conversation is too focused on scandals around President Donald Trump, especially the one to do with Stormy Daniels, even though these scandals don’t seem to move the president’s poll numbers very much. Democrats would do better if they focused on issues where Republicans have unpopular ideas: taxes, and especially health care. When these issues were the most central in the political conversation, Republicans’ poll numbers looked worse than they do now.

The second step is a corrective: Democrats are talking about the issues. Just look at what they’re saying in speeches or what’s on their websites. It’s the media that’s so focused on Stormy Daniels.

And the third step is further worry: Even if Democrats are talking about the issues, that message isn’t breaking through, because of all the scandal coverage.

I think it’s true that healthcare repeal is the thing that hurts Republicans the most politically, and it would be good for Democrats if people talked and thought about it more. But I still think these worries miss two key mitigating facts.

One is that Democrats have a tool available to shift the conversation in the summer and fall: paid media. They can hammer Republicans with ads on the healthcare issue. Remember the role that Republicans’ relentless ads attacking Democrats for cutting Medicare played in the 2010 election? It can be like that, but in reverse.

The other is that “Trump scandal” is probably a better issue for Democrats than they realise.

No, incremental developments in scandals don’t seem to be hurting the president’s numbers at the margin. But the president’s baseline position, having such low poll numbers even though the public is pretty satisfied with the economy, is a testament to the electoral penalty he and his party pay for all of his … stuff.

So, it’s good and important to have all that stuff stay in the conversation – and healthcare can be added, through ads, as necessary.

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