From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
Obama likes to tell voters on the stump that when he's president, if the health care lobbyists and the drug companies try to run "Harry and Louise" ads against his attempt to pass universal health care, he'll use his own campaign funds to run his own ads.
"And I'll tell Harry and Louise they're wrong," Obama has said at countless town halls.
But is he adopting Harry-and-Louise-type tactics? A new Obama campaign mailer eerily evokes the fictional couple that torpedoed universal health care in 1993. In the Harry and Louise ads of the past, a middle American couple stood around their kitchen discussing their worries that the government would control their healthcare -- what doctors they could see, how much they would pay, whether quality would go down and bureaucracy go up.
In the Obama mailer, there's a picture of an American couple, sitting at the kitchen table, with frowns on their faces as they appear to be looking at bills. The headline on the mailing reads: "Hillary's health-care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it."
Its second part shows a smiling Clinton and repeats the line from above and adds the phrase, "and you pay a penalty if you don't." It adds, "The way Hillary Clinton's health-care plan covers everyone is to have the government force uninsured people to buy insurance, even if they can't afford it."
The argument here, of course, is over the importance of mandates versus not having them, and Obama has repeatedly said on the stump that Americans want to buy insurance if its affordable. Clinton, meanwhile, has not specified how she would enforce her mandates -- whether it be through a paying a penalty like in Massachusetts, or some other way. She has often said that she will allow Congress to work out the details.
David Axelrod, a senior Obama strategist for the Obama contends that the campaign is not dredging up the ghosts of Harry and Louise. "[Clinton's] playing a shell game," Axelrod said. "She knows she has to have a penalty to enforce mandates. How else do you have a mandate?"
Axelrod added that the subsidies that are in both Clinton's and Obama's plans are the same, and her claim that he would leave out 15 million insurers would be the same in her plan should she not include some kind of penalty.
This mailer comes after the Obama campaign cried foul over mailings the Clinton camp sent questioning Obama's record on abortion (over his "present' votes in the Illinois legislature) and Social Security (over his proposal to raise the cap on taxable Social Security income for those making more than $200,00 a year)
The Clinton campaign held a conference call with reporters to rebut the mailing. Yet as the Politico's Ben Smith reported, Clinton surrogate Len Nichols of the New America Foundation compared the mailer to the Nazis marching through Illinois, a bizarre reference that was quickly disavowed by Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson at the end of the call.