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LIBRE Initiative targets Rep. Joe Garcia in first TV ad over Obamacare. But will it work?


The LIBRE Initiative, a conservative Hispanic-outreach group, has announced it's going after Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia over his support for Obamacare.

The big question: Does this line of attack actually work? And will it work in 2014 when Garcia is likely to face Republican Carlos Curbelo?

The fact that Garcia is being targeted is a sign that District 26 is in play. It's a newly drawn swing district, so it can't be taken for granted by either party. Garcia is raising money like a demon and incumbents are tough to beat, but then Democrats tend to underperform in mid-term elections.

As for the policy and politics of Obamacare: Yes, the rollout has been a public-relations disaster. And some people will wind up paying more for insurance. Others, however, will wind up paying less. We still don't know the winner-loser breakdown because the law's not fully implemented yet and the broken sign-up website has made things worse.

Florida and national Democrats are also ready to blame rate increases and insurance problems on Republicans by pointing out the GOP-led Legislature exempted Obamacare insurance plans from rate review for two years and refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Beyond that, the effectiveness of attacking the Affordable Care Act is a matter of hot political dispute.

In his gubernatorial loss Tuesday, Virgnia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made the argument that Obamacare's failures kept him in the game. Public polls showed him way down, then Obamacare's latest troubles surfaced and the race appeared to tighten on Election Day.

It's a simple narrative, which makes it appealing, but the data don't clearly support it.

First off, the public polls were likely wrong. It could be because public polling by media and other organizations prefer a relatively inexpensive type of "likely voter" survey to "registered voter" polls, which have a looser screen and sometimes don't produce such wide margins in what end up being close races.

But even if the public polling were right, there's not much evidence drawing a direct correlation between opposition for Obamacare and support for those who oppose it. Indeed, the Virginia exit polls show Obamacare was supported-opposed 46-53 percent. Yet of those who opposed Obamacare, Democrat Terry McAuliffe drew 11 percent support, and of those who supported Obamacare, Cuccinelli pulled 6 percent (So McAuliffe had a net 5-point advantage in the category of drawing from the other guy's ideological camp).

Then there's the matter of what opposing Obamacare really means. Baked into the opposition are those who don't think it's enough. Some essentialy think it's too conservative of a law (after all, the concept was pushed by conservatives until Obama touched it). Strip those folks out, and Obamacare often has plurality support. Also, many want the law to be improved, not repealed.

The same holds true for Florida (see more on Virginia-Obamacare-etc. here and here). A slim majority oppose it.

Then there's the matter of District 26. Much of the district is in Miami-Dade County, the largest and least-insured county in a state that has the second-highest rate of the uninsured. It's also heavily Hispanic, about 65 percent. Hispanics are among the least-insured population in the state and nation and they are among the most-likely to support Obamacare, a partial legacy of the Obama campaign, which touted the act in Spanish-language ads in Florida.

Also, after stripping out Kendall and parts of the Keys, a good chunk of D-26 is middle-income and working class. In short: It's the kind of district where many would be able to get Obamcare subsidies so they could get more insurance (if they have any) for less.

But Republican allies need to hit Garcia somewhere. He has a relatively centrist voting record and he's taking a lead role in immigration reform. So Obamacare is what they have. So get ready for more ads with messages like this one:

"In South Florida, families are struggling.

"Costs continue to rise, but we're still earning less.

"And this Washington politician is making things worse...Joe Garcia supports the new healthcare law which burdens Americans with higher insurance premiums...

"...costing hard-working families thousands.

"[ReporterVoiceover]: 'The Obama administration is conceding that some people will have to pay a lot more for health insurance.'

"Tell Congressman Joe Garcia to stop driving up our healthcare costs."

Asked  about the ad, Garcia brushed it off: "They got my name right and they got my picture and my mom tells me I look nice."