KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

North Dakota Senate Race Is Costliest In State’s History

News outlets also report on tight Senate races in Pennsylvania and Indiana, House contests, including that of former GOP primary presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, R- Minn., and state ballot initiatives.

The Wall Street Journal: Tab Rises In Tight North Dakota Senate Race
How do you run for Senate as a Democrat in a state that hasn't backed one of your own for president since men walked on the moon? For Heidi Heitkamp, the answer is to support the Keystone Pipeline, criticize onerous environmental regulations, bad-mouth core planks of the Democrats' 2010 federal health-care overhaul, and generally put a country mile between herself and President Barack Obama. The strategy has helped Ms. Heitkamp, a former North Dakota attorney general, turn the Senate race here against Rep. Rick Berg into one of the closest and costliest in recent state history (King, 11/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: US Chamber To Air Ads Against Democratic Sen. Casey In Pa., Endorses GOP Candidate
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching television and radio ads against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in a Pennsylvania race that Republicans insist has become competitive. The television commercial calls Casey the deciding vote for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, although he was one of 60 who backed the measure. It also criticizes the first-term senator on energy (11/1).

USA Today: Rape Comments Transform U.S. Senate Race In Indiana
Before their Oct. 23 debate, the U.S. Senate race pitting Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly focused on the future of Social Security and Medicare and whether one candidate is too conservative and the other too liberal. But Mourdock, 61, Indiana's treasurer since 2007, said that night, "Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that ... is something that God intended to happen." His remark catapulted the race, already crucial to control of the Senate, into national headlines and the presidential campaign. Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who had just released an ad supporting Mourdock, declined to withdraw his support, but his campaign said he disagreed with Mourdock's views. President Obama's campaign released an online ad calling Romney and Mourdock "extremists" on women's issues (Keen, 11/2).

Minnesota Star Tribune: Bachmann: Only Abortion Exception Should Be The Life Of The Mother
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann declined to say whether she agrees with an Indiana candidate's claim that pregnancies that result from rape are God's will. During a debate with her Sixth Congressional District challenger Jim Graves Thursday morning, Bachmann repeated her conviction that abortion should be banned. The only exception, she said, should be should be if the life of the mother is at stake (Brooks, 11/1).

McClatchy: GOP Redistricting, Money Give N.C. Rep. Ellmers Edge In Race
Democrat Steve Wilkins, running in a tough congressional race against Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, says his 22 years of military service – which include a key role in planning the invasion of Iraq – show the spirit of public service Washington needs to break the partisan logjam. Wilkins is at the polls every day, introducing himself to early voters. But the odds are against him. National Democrats haven't poured money into his campaign. And Ellmers, with much more cash, has another big advantage: The Republican legislature redrew her district in her favor. … Ellmers said in an interview that she favored a plan that mostly relies on the private sector for health insurance and changes Medicare along the lines the Republican-controlled House has passed. That plan would set up a voucher system that people could use to buy coverage from competing health plans. Wilkins said he likes the president's health care law, noting that it provides coverage for people now uninsured, starting in 2014 (Schoof, 11/2).

McClatchy: In Congress, Democrat Kissell Is Stuck In The Middle
The Republicans have worked hard to paint Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell as an incompetent congressman who is best friends with a left-wing president and responsible for lost jobs in his rural North Carolina district. The reality of Kissell’s work in Congress is a lot more complicated. … Kissell voted against the health care law, but he didn’t support early attempts to repeal it. He did vote this year to repeal the measure when it was clear that he would have to run in a more conservative district. "The congressman says he voted against the Affordable Care Act every time, but the fact of the matter, Congressman, you voted 23 times to support it or to oppose partially defunding Obamacare," Hudson said (Ordonez, 11/1).

CQ HealthBeat: State Elections Include Ballot Measures On Health Law, Social Issues
When voters go to the polls on Tuesday, they will indirectly make some health policy choices through the candidates they elect to national and state offices. But some states also have ballot initiatives that will directly affect health care. Five states have votes on initiatives linked to the federal health care law. In all five — Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming — the measures were put on the ballot by the state legislatures rather than through citizen initiatives. Nine states have controversial health-related ballot questions on abortion, smoking, the use of marijuana or assisted suicide. In a year when the overall number of ballot measures is relatively low, the volume of health-related questions shows that the issue still resonates (Adams, 11/1).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.