The best defense

THE BEST DEFENSE…. What’s that expression? “The best defense is a good offense”? The DNC seems to understand the concept.

With the Republican National Committee targeting a list of House Democrats in relatively conservative districts whom it will go after for backing health care legislation, the Democratic National Committee is making the opposite case, and says it will use the legislation against 33 Republicans whose districts went for President Obama last fall.

“These are folks in districts that voted for the President, and where insurance reform is not only needed, but also politically popular. By not only voting against the needs of their constituents, but also their desire to reform the perverse health insurance system — and to do it for purely political purposes — these Republicans have put a giant target on their back. They made a disastrous choice and they will reap the consequences of that choice,” said DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan in an email.

That’s entirely the right attitude to bring to the debate. It’s about showing confidence and projecting strength. For all the media speculation about vulnerable Democratic incumbents being afraid to support fixing a broken system, the majority has every reason to turn this frame around.

A DNC official told Ben Smith, “If Republicans think this is a political problem for us — they’re sorely mistaken. The American people want reform and Republicans are standing in the way for the sake of partisan politics. That is a political problem for them. We are going to cause havoc for them.”

Is this bravado? Sure. Is the argument that the reform vote will be “a political problem for them” likely to be true? I have no idea. But the point is to stay on the offensive on one of the party’s signature issues.

Now, it’s worth noting that the DNC’s efforts are, at least for now, preliminary. The party’s press release talked about “targeting” these 33 House Republicans who voted against reform, despite representing districts that supported Obama last year, but there are no new broadcast ads and we don’t yet know how aggressive the effort is going to be.

The press statement said the effort “will include press releases, Op-Eds and letters to the editor, local events and will leverage the energy and enthusiasm of the DNC’s grassroots supporters and its email list in holding these members accountable for their vote. The effort may also include paid advertising.” In other words, the party isn’t spending a lot of money on this, at least not yet.

But it’s a step in the right direction.