COLUMBUS — Democrat Richard Cordray has been barraging his Republican opponent in Ohio's governor's race as someone who wants to end health insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, his rival, has reached back nearly a quarter-century, to a U.S. Senate debate from 1994, to defend himself. That's despite DeWine joining a Republican lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act on his first day in office as Ohio's lawyer in 2011.
It's a playbook that's unfolding in U.S. Senate and governor's races across the country, where Democrats are trying to make inroads against Republican opponents who now support certain popular elements of the federal health care law after opposing the overall law, commonly called Obamacare, in past elections.
DeWine joins GOP gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin who now say they support the law's coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions, for instance.
Their efforts to downplay opposition to the federal law accompany polling that shows health care is a top issue among voters this year.
During their Oct. 8 debate in Cleveland, DeWine and Cordray, the former federal consumer watchdog, clashed on the issue. DeWine called Cordray's ads on the subject misleading.
“How in the world can you have a family as big as we have and not understand the medical problems that people have today?” DeWine asked. “Mr. Cordray continues to run these ads that say I don't, and he knows better than that.”
Besides the 1994 Senate debate , DeWine notes that he voted seven times in support of various bills that provided coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions between 1989 and 2006 while he was in Congress.
Cordray contends that his ads are accurate because all those votes are now irrelevant.
“There's only ever been one law in this country that protected people with pre-existing conditions, and it was the Affordable Care Act,” Cordray said during the debate. “Everything else he talks about was ineffective to protect people in that situation, as shown by the fact that we had to have the Affordable Care Act in 2010. And ever since, Mike DeWine has been flatly opposed to it.”
During Ohio's primary, DeWine positioned himself as a staunch opponent of the entire law, including the Medicaid expansion provision stridently supported by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a fellow Republican. After DeWine won the GOP nod, in fact, Kasich threatened to withhold his endorsement over it.
DeWine responded initially by saying the expansion was financially unsustainable. Eventually, under pressure from Kasich, doctors and others, he said he would support keeping the expansion — but with improvements.
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