Republicans Use Multimedia Strategy to Attack Health Plans

Posted February 25, 2010 at 5:26pm

While their top leaders sat uncomfortably inside the bipartisan health care summit on Thursday, the GOP kicked its message machine into high gear to brand the event as a charade.

Throughout the day, House and Senate Republican leadership offices issued “fact check” press releases that questioned the accuracy of Democratic comments on everything from Medicare cuts to cost controls on their health care reform proposals. By day’s end, the joint leadership effort was expected to have sent out more than 20 fact check e-mails to reporters, aides said.

More than a dozen House Republicans appeared at least 54 times on television and radio programs on Wednesday and Thursday to talk about the health care summit.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) and Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) appeared at an Americans for Prosperity rally outside the Blair House.

Four members of the GOP’s “Truth Squad” held a conference call and said Democrats were advocating a plan that was rejected just two hours into the six-hour summit.

“The new plan looks a lot like the old plan,” said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Price said on the call that Democrats had made it clear they believe the government should set the standard of care in the United States, and had no interest in changing course.

Shortly before the summit broke for lunch, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told ABC’s “Top Line” the summit was “starting to look like a waste of time.”

“This is not good government; it’s also bad TV,” Pence said.

House Republican Twitter feeds were nearly uniform in their criticism of the summit throughout the day.

“Time clock on first half of healthcare summit: Dems spoke for 108 min, GOP spoke for 56 minutes. Who’s doing the listening?” wrote Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

“Cutting Medicare to fund new entitlements won’t save Medicare or reduce the deficit. Double-entry accounting didn’t work for [Bernie] Madoff either,” read Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R-N.C.) twitter feed.

On the Senate side of the Capitol, Republicans used a nearly identical approach, sending out dozens of Senators to the floor to give speeches on health care issues.

According to a leadership aide, Senate Republicans gave more than 24 national television and 25 radio interviews, and they conducted six conference calls with local and regional print and television reporters during the summit.

Additionally, dozens of Senate Republicans sent e-mails to their constituent lists throughout the day, criticizing Democratic proposals and touting the GOP’s plans to overhaul the health care system.

A Senior GOP leadership aide said that while Republicans may not have had a key moment during the summit in which they knocked Obama off his game, they met their main goal of coming into the meeting organized and not being pushed off their own message.

“We feel very positive about it. We came with a plan and we’ve executed exactly as we wanted to,” the aide said.

Although Democrats also had their own “fact check” operation running, they took a decidedly more low-key approach. The Democratic National Committee’s Rapid Response team send out numerous e-mails throughout the day, and Democratic lawmakers used the Senate floor and media to make their case, but not in the numbers Republicans did.

Nevertheless, those Democrats that did participate in the messaging efforts were as aggressive — if not more so — than their GOP counterparts.

For instance, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who spent Thursday live blogging on Daily Kos, offered a more candid assessment of the Republicans at summit.

“I think Leader Boehner is particularly livid about the tanning bed tax,” Weiner wrote. “Surprised he hasn’t mentioned it.”