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This Time, Health Care Advocates Have Edge

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Last year, protesters rallied against passage of the health care overhaul. But now that it’s law, advocates of the law say they can win the battle of public relations over opponents who hope for repeal.

Opposition to the health care law resonated with the group’s members in the recent midterm elections, Cathcart said, noting that 25 NFIB members were elected to Congress, including two Senators.

But it is highly unlikely that the repeal will be enacted. It would have to overcome steep opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate and a certain veto by President Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, Clancy said his group’s goal is to “drive up the vote totals” for repeal in the House, where support is strongest, to prod the Senate to consider the matter. Furthermore, conservatives contend the health care law will be a winning issue for them in the 2012 elections, so they want to get lawmakers on the record.

“This is a multiyear project,” Clancy said.

Conversely, liberal groups are lobbying to prevent too many Democrats from supporting the repeal.

“We don’t want this to be a blowout,” Samuel said. He said he doubts there will be too many defections; of the 34 Democrats who voted against the bill last year, only 13 are returning.

While ideological groups are ratcheting up their activities, other stakeholders, who spent millions of dollars lobbying on the multitude of arcane provisions in the legislation last year, have remained largely on the sidelines.

Instead, some are focusing on working with the federal agencies to shape rules implementing the laws. Others are awaiting the outcome of federal lawsuits that have challenged the law, particularly the mandate that all Americans buy health insurance.

“Most health care industry stakeholders are, for the moment, too engaged in trying to influence the process of implementation to spend any effort on repeal,” said Andy Rosenberg, a Democratic lobbyist and partner in Thorn Run Partners who represents health care clients.

Conspicuously quiet so far has been the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which last year spent more than any other group opposing the health care law. Blair Latoff, chamber spokeswoman, said the business organization does not have a paid media or grass-roots campaign planned around the repeal.

“We don’t have anything to announce at this moment,” Latoff said in an e-mail, “But I can tell you that the business community remains ardently opposed to the new health care law and will continue to work diligently to mitigate the negative impacts on job creation.”

Other groups are biding their time and are more likely to seize on health care as it becomes an election issue.

Crossroads GPS, a political group founded by former Bush adviser Karl Rove that was a major funder of Republican candidates in the last election, is one such conservative group holding its fire.

“Crossroads GPS has no plans on healthcare in the immediate short term, though it is likely we will be active later on, as the battle on healthcare will continue in the Senate well along into 2012,” spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in an e-mail.

Other medical stakeholders are steering clear of the repeal fight, which some view as a waste of time.

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