Democrats plan to remind voters that Republicans opposed COVID-19 relief come the midterm elections.
With the passing of the $1.9 trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief package on a strict party-line vote Saturday night, every single Republican in Congress has now voted against President Joe Biden's coronavirus relief bill. And Democrats plan to remind the electorate of that early and often in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections.
Already, Democratic groups have launched ad campaigns against GOP lawmakers up for reelection next year who either voted against virus relief legislation or signaled they did not support Biden's bill.
"At the end of the day, we're going to get this done for the American people and we will remind the people who stood up for them in their darkest times — and who did not," Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday.
On Feb. 27, the day the relief package passed the House without any Republican votes, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a digital ad campaign against 10 House Republicans who voted against the relief bill: Reps. David Valadao (CA), Mike Garcia (CA), Young Kim CA), Michelle Steel (CA), Lauren Boebert (CO), Don Bacon (NE), Beth Van Duyne (TX), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), and John Katko (NY).
The ads highlight provisions in the bill that are overwhelmingly popular with the electorate, including a new round of $1,400 relief checks to a large swath of taxpayers, expanded unemployment insurance benefits, and funding for vaccine rollouts and for school reopening.
In Wisconsin, a group of labor activists launched a $1 million ad campaign in mid-February against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who has now voted against three coronavirus relief bills that contained stimulus checks.
"Sen. Ron Johnson has done everything he can to stop us from getting the relief we need," Jessica Krell, a mom who has juggled work and being a caregiver during the pandemic, says in the ad.
The aggressive positioning is a far cry from how Democrats handled the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
As of September 2010, two months from a midterm election cycle in which House Democrats were swept out of power in a massive GOP wave, not a single House Democrat ran ads touting their yes vote for the health care bill, Politico reported. An unnamed Democratic strategist told Politico that it would be "political malfeasance" to run ads about supporting the ACA.
A study from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group in 2014 found that Democrats were swamped by negative ads against the ACA, which Republicans successfully branded as "Obamacare." The group's review found that negative advertising between 2010 and 2014 about Obamacare totaled $418 million, while there was just $27 million spent on positive ads about the law. The study called the lopsided spending "unprecedented."
Democratic strategists say there are key differences between the Obamacare debate and the coronavirus relief bill.
The relief bill is broadly popular, with a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted at the end of February finding 77% of voters — including 59% of Republicans — support it.
So, too, are key provisions within the relief bill.
A Navigator Research poll from early February found 78% of voters support a new round of $1,400 relief checks, 74% support increased funding for vaccine rollout and testing, and 63% support increased unemployment insurance payments.
The health care bill was much more polarizing — and less popular.
A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll from November 2009 found just 35% of Americans supported the health care plan being debated on Capitol Hill.
Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin said the coronavirus relief bill is popular, and Democrats cannot just sit back and hope that voters remember that they worked to pass it while Republicans unified in opposition.
"It's important to talk about our successes," Schwerin, who worked at the DCCC in 2014 when backlash to Obamacare led Democrats to lose seats in the House, said in an interview. "If all goes as we hope and the economy does improve, and we do continue to ramp up vaccinations, and the numbers on COVID continue to improve, we have to go out there and talk about that."
Schwerin added that the fact that the right-wing media ecosphere has been focused on falsely blaming Democrats for so-called "cancel culture" against Dr. Seuss as the Senate debates the relief package, rather than going full-bore in opposition to the bill, is a sign even Republicans know the relief bill is popular.
"Republicans aren't talking about it a ton because they know it's popular," Schwerin said. "Every Democratic group is out there touting this great thing, and Republicans are talking about Dr. Seuss. That's a pretty stark contrast from the health care bill, when you had Pharma spending tons of money against it and the opposition was mobilized in a much more organized way."
There is a long time between now and the midterm elections.
But Democrats are showing signs that they plan to make GOP opposition to the relief package a defining issue of the midterms.
"With their vote against the Democrats' plan to get badly needed stimulus checks to the American people, Washington Republicans are once again refusing to take this pandemic seriously," DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney said in a news release. "From denying the seriousness of the virus, to refusing to follow the public health recommendations from Dr. Fauci and medical experts, to refusing to give American families the aid they need, they've made clear that they're unable to lead us out of this crisis. House Democrats are making sure the American people know it."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.