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There are tons of anti-Obamacare ads and almost none defending it

The president would really prefer it if Obamacare was more of an asset in the midterms.
The president would really prefer it if Obamacare was more of an asset in the midterms.
Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

A new study of 2014 election spending shows that ads criticizing Obamacare are commonplace, while ads defending it are "virtually non-existent."

The Wesleyan Media Project finds anti-Obamacare messaging in 35 percent of all Senate race ads so far, and 29 percent of all House ads. The map below shows what percentage of the Congressional election ads in each media market criticized Obamacare — in some states, it's over 75 percent:


About 40 percent of those ads come from just one group — Americans for Prosperity, a dark money organization backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. Every single one of its political ads this cycle has criticized Obamacare, according to the study. AFP's ads have frequently been challenged by fact-checkers.

There's no similar map of pro-Obamacare ads, because they basically don't exist. "Only a few ads touch the subject, preferring to, for example, reference requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions rather than reference the ACA directly," the study's authors write.

Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, told me that there were a few pro-Obamacare ads in Cory Booker's New Jersey Senate primary, and in North Carolina and Louisiana. But their raw numbers are tiny, and most "are so oblique that if you weren't paying attention, you wouldn't know they were referring to health care reform at all," she said. Some, like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's ads, even somewhat critique the law:

It should be noted, though, that most heavy ad spending so far has occurred in conservative states, since most competitive Senate races are there. Naturally, an anti-Obamacare message would be expected to be more effective in red states. Here is the Wesleyan Media Project's map of Senate ad spending so far:


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