KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Abortion, Health Law Drive Messaging In Tight Senate And House Races

News outlets examine last-minute campaign actions and ads in Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Massachusetts, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The New York Times: Trying To Tip Virginia Senate Race With Pinpoint Door Knocking
The state Democratic Party runs a "coordinated campaign" to augment the Obama team's efforts and promote Mr. Kaine and other Democratic candidates, with hubs in Alexandria, a Washington suburb; Richmond, the capital; the Hampton Roads area, a military center; and Charlottesville, a student bastion. On the periphery are separate get-out-the-vote, rally-the-faithful efforts motivated by Mr. Obama but carrying along Mr. Kaine's message. Canvassing has been going on for months, financed by at least three unions, Planned Parenthood and Virginia New Majority. ... Republicans boast of similar operations (Weisman, 10/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Democrat Donnelly Walks Careful Line After Foe's Abortion Comment In Indiana Senate Campaign
Seeking to capture an Indiana Senate seat Democrats haven't held for four decades, Joe Donnelly's television ads depict him as an earnest moderate while slamming his tea party-backed Senate opponent for an abortion remark that ignited a firestorm of criticism from members of both parties. What the ads don't mention ... is that last year he backed a measure that would have denied federal abortion funding even in cases of rape and incest. Donnelly explains that while he opposes abortion he didn't initially realize the bill would have gone that far, yet the issue has made it difficult for him to capitalize on Republican Richard Mourdock's comment in a televised debate that pregnancy resulting from rape is something "God intended." The abortion policy similarities between the two candidates and an electorate with deeply rooted social conservative beliefs have muted the impact of Mourdock's words in Indiana (10/31).

Politico: Dem Poll Shows Mourdock Tanking, Donnelly Up 9 In Indiana
Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly has established a clear lead over Republican Richard Mourdock in the Indiana Senate race, according to a poll taken for Donnelly's campaign in the wake of Mourdock's damaging comments about abortion and rape (Burns, 10/31).

USA Today: Wisconsin's U.S. Senate Race Is Bitterly Contested
The contentious race for the U.S. Senate between former Republican governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin is growing even more intense in its final days, reflecting the closeness of the contest and its importance. ... Their records and disparate political philosophies on the economy, health care and the federal deficit were fodder for most of their disagreements, but in the final days of the campaign the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their responses to them have become flash points (Keen, 11/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Nation's Costliest Senate Race, GOP's Brown, Dems' Warren Make Final Appeals
Brown and Warren both describe themselves as "pro-choice," but Warren has repeatedly pointed to Brown's support for an amendment that would have let employers and insurers refuse health coverage for services they say violate their moral convictions, including contraception. Brown said he was defending the religious rights of Catholics, but Warren warned a vote for Brown could help put a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, endangering abortion rights. Brown has countered by arguing Warren supports higher taxes, including those in the 2010 Affordable Care Act signed by Obama. Brown supports repealing what he calls "Obamacare" and has taken a no new taxes pledge (10/31).

The Seattle Times: Candidate Koster Draws Fire For Comments On Rape, Abortion
1st District congressional candidate John Koster drew criticism Wednesday for how he spoke about abortion and rape in a secretly recorded conversation. Koster, a Republican, said he believes abortion should be illegal, even in cases of incest or rape, unless the life of the mother is in danger. But he has tried to draw attention away from abortion rights, preferring to discuss the economy. The recording is one of the first times during this campaign that Koster explained his position in his own words (Heffer, 10/31).

CNN: Pennsylvania's Casey Target Of Radio Ad On Abortion
The conservative Susan B. Anthony List questions Democratic Sen. Bob Casey's abortion position in a new ad hitting Pennsylvania airwaves. The spot, which SBA is spending $50,000 to run, says Casey's vote in favor of President Barack Obama's health care law contradicts his position on abortion. "Bob Casey Jr. says he's pro-life but Casey Jr. voted for Obamacare, the largest expansion of abortion in U.S. history, even forcing churches to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, against their religions belief," the narrator says. Outside Republicans have increasingly been seeking an opportunity in the state, and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign recently announced an ad buy, their first in the state this year. The non-partisan Cook Political Report says the race leans in Casey's direction and the Rothenberg Political Report says the race favors Casey's re-election (Wallace and Hamby, 10/31).

Meanwhile, the election will determine control of the Minnesota state legislature and will have big health policy consequences in the state -

MPR: Parties Fight For Control Of Minnesota Legislature
The races for president and U.S. Senate and the proposed constitutional amendments on the Minnesota ballot have received plenty of attention this year. But under the radar is another fierce battle, one for control of the Minnesota Legislature. With all 201 legislative seats in play, the candidates and independent groups that support and oppose them are spending millions of dollars to try to sway voters. Among the most competitive contests is the one occurring in Eagan, where Republican state Rep. Doug Wardlow is taking fire from unions, and Democratic-leaning groups who support his opponent, Democrat Laurie Halverson. ... Wardlow said his solid principles include opposition to tax hikes and a state-based health insurance exchange. But Halverson, his DFL opponent, said Wardlow is one of the causes of gridlock at the Capitol (Scheck, 11/1).

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