KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House And Senate Races Turning On Health, Abortion Issues

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is focusing on Medicare and women's health issues in new TV ads, as Missouri Rep. Todd Akin strengthens his ties to evangelicals.

The Hill: DCCC Mounts Health Care Attacks In New TV Ads
The DCCC spots focus on Medicare and women's health -- two recurring themes in every Democratic campaign this year, including the presidential race. The ads are also a clear sign that Democrats believe they're back on offense over health care, following a bruising 2010 cycle dominated by conservative opposition to President Obama's health care law (Baker, 10/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Akin Bonds Ever Tighter With Evangelicals
Mr. Akin, a six-term representative from the St. Louis area, has long been a favorite of evangelical Christians who support his positions against abortion and same-sex marriage. Now, two months after he triggered a national uproar by saying that female bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape," Mr. Akin has retreated deeper into the protection of that evangelical base. His comments, in an August interview with a St. Louis television station, turned what had been seen as a likely Republican pickup of a Democratic seat into a challenge for the GOP (Belkin, 10/17).

A Senate seat race in North Dakota has grown unexpectedly close, with a focus on abortion and similar issues --

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Unexpectedly Close North Dakota Race, Who Wins Comes Down To Ticket-Splitters
Republicans had hoped that the Senate race would be over by now, that Romney voters intrigued by Heitkamp would settle in with Berg. The first-term congressman's case to voters has been similar to Romney's: a healthy emphasis on the national debt, a dismissal of Obama's policies and the promise that he can bring his skills as a businessman to the Senate. For much of the campaign, Berg has made a simple partisan appeal against Heitkamp, a former state attorney general. His ads and his stump speeches focused largely on her past support of Obama's policies, particularly the president's health care law. He said she would be a rubber stamp for Obama and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid. Berg's more recent ads have questioned Heitkamp's self-styled independence (10/17).

Politico Pro: In North Dakota, Heitkamp Plays Down Abortion Issues
For a Democratic female Senate candidate, what's the best way to approach the hot-button issue of abortion in a state with a history of opposition to it — all during an election year rife with women’s health issues? If you’re North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp, you avoid the topic. Never mind that President Barack Obama used women’s health issues as powerful weapons against Mitt Romney in Tuesday night’s debate. In Heitkamp’s state, there’s not much to be gained by talking about them — so throughout the campaign, she has played down her previous support for abortion rights. Heitkamp is in a tight race with GOP Rep. Rick Berg to replace Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad in North Dakota — a state ranked by Americans United for Life as one of the top 10 states for anti-abortion legislation (Smith, 10/17).

Health issues in Senate races in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New York are also examined --

Politico: LCV Surveys: Warren Up Over Brown, Tester And Rehberg Neck And Neck
The League of Conservation Voters is out with two new polls in competitive Senate races, showing Elizabeth Warren well ahead of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Rep. Denny Rehberg and Sen. Jon Tester basically tied in Montana (Haberman, 10/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Despite Wisconsin's Swing To The Right, Resurgent Liberal Makes Senate Race Tight
For the last few years, the most endangered species in Wisconsin appeared to be the liberal Democrat. In one election after another, unhappy voters tossed them from public office, defeating long-serving incumbents, rebuffing promising newcomers and capping it off by creating a new national conservative hero, Republican Gov. Scott Walker (10/17).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Sen. Gillibrand And GOP Challenger Long Debate
In one of the most animated exchanges, Long spoke against the mandate that President Barack Obama announced in January requiring most employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control, a move opposed by many Roman Catholic groups. "If I'm just a private person with a business, and I have faith that tells me that abortion, sterilization and contraception are evil, will I be forced to buy such a plan, to offer it to my employees?" Long asked. Gillibrand countered that there is a movement to undermine women's basic rights. "To say that's evil shows disregard for the ability of a woman to make that personal life-and-death decision about her own body," Gillibrand said (10/17).

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