A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Axelrod Wrong on Health Care Ads Claim


White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod incorrectly claimed that Republican Scott Brown “didn’t run one ad on health care in the entire campaign” against Democrat Martha Coakley. In fact, a Brown campaign TV spot attacking health care legislation ran heavily in the days before Tuesday’s Senate election in Massachusetts.

Axelrod, in an appearance alongside White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” on Wednesday, was trying to play down the role of the health care issue in Brown’s upset victory. MSNBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked, “How can you interpret this in any other way that it is a total rejection of health care reform?” Axelrod responded:

Axelrod, Jan. 20: I think that there were a lot of elements to the message yesterday. Health care was part of it.

I would note that Senator Brown didn’t run one ad on health care in the entire campaign. I’m sure you know that. And he supported a health care reform similar to the one that the president was and is committed to in Massachusetts, and said during the campaign that he wouldn’t repeal it.

But that’s wrong. The Brown campaign did run a TV ad specifically highlighting Brown’s opposition to health care legislation in Congress. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group of TNS Media Intelligence, which tracks when and where political TV ads appear, the Brown ad ran a total of 222 times from Jan. 12 through Jan. 15 in Boston, Springfield, and nearby Providence, R.I. CMAG estimates that the campaign spent $135,000 to air the spot, in which Brown states that the bill would have a “negative effect on you and your family.”

Furthermore, the recently formed Americans for Responsible Health Care also ran ads in the state emphasizing Brown’s opposition to current plans for overhauling the nation’s health care system. ARHC, according to Politico.com, spent $200,000 airing the two ads below in the Boston market just a week before the election.

During the interview, Axelrod said that he didn’t feel the election was about “that one particular issue” and that “there is a tendency in this town … to overblow things, even beyond their importance.” Nevertheless, he said, the administration gets the message sent by the outcome in Massachusetts.