How The Health Care Ad Wars In Iowa Are Playing Out

While Democrats were debating health care plans all this year, a less-noticed storyline was playing out on Iowa TV screens. Conservative organizations were dumping millions on ads opposing Medicare for All or even a public option here. While those messages were aimed more at general election swing voters, Democratic caucus-goers saw them all the same.

There still are a few PACs left spending money on health care in Iowa, but the buys have gotten smaller. Most of the campaigns will conclude at the end of October, and there appears to be a break before ads may pick up again in late January.

The American Action Network and One Nation are the only conservative PACs with ads up on TV this month, spending $44,050 and $66,500, respectively, in the Des Moines media market. According to the Federal Communication Commission’s website, currently there is nothing else on the books for the groups leading up to caucuses in February.

Conservative Groups Continue Ad Buys

The American Action Network [AAN] has spent large sums of money across the country, and this end-of-month push in Iowa is part of a $2.5 million nationwide campaign.

AAN is concerned with prescription drug costs, running attack ads on Democrats in Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The group is pushing trigger-terms like socialism, government control and socialist takeover. The ad below is one of its Iowa versions, targeting U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer. An identical ad is running against Finkenauer’s House colleague, Congresswoman Cindy Axne.

One Nation is still running the same set of ads it has had up for a handful of months, and it is unclear if those will continue into the holiday season, or if they will pick up again before the caucuses.

The conservative group also took part in a huge push a couple months ago, when Democratic candidates started releasing full health care plans before the debate schedule picked up. Though its spending is down a bit from a couple months ago, the PAC still spent the most of these groups in Iowa this month, with a $66,500 purchase of time on KCCI’s airwaves.

Nurses Reserve Pre-Caucus Times

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners [AANP] is one of the only groups to reserve space leading up to the caucuses so far, making a $14,550 purchase with KCCI in Des Moines for Jan. 29 to caucus day Feb. 3.

The content of AANP’s ads remains to be seen. It only has two ads active right now, and neither of them endorse or oppose any particular candidate or piece of legislation, they simply promote having nurse practitioners as a primary care provider.

AANP has had an even, bipartisan split with its campaign contributions over the last few cycles, donating 52% to Democrats in 2018 and 47% to Republicans. The 2020 cycle has, so far, show more of a lean toward Democratic candidates, with 55% of their donations going to Democrats and just 40% to Republicans.

Democrats’ Ads Attack Each Other

While outside groups slow down on their spending, Democratic candidates have started running ads calling out fellow candidates’ proposals. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Michael Bennet both are running ads against their more liberal counterparts in the presidential race.

Buttigieg’s ad, “Makes More Sense,” calls out Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren by name, and pushes his “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan as a more realistic, pragmatic option to fix the health care system.

Bennet is running two new ads, “Truth” and “2010,” highlighting a pragmatic approach to health care reform. The ads have an old school, western-type of feel to them, and feature Bennet speaking directly to the camera.

“2010” highlights Bennet’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which was seen as a politically risky move at the time.

In response, Warren looks to be gearing up for a big advertising push in the start of 2020, though no ads have been released yet. Sanders already released a new ad, depicting a moment from his Medical Debt Town Hall last month in Des Moines.


By Josh Cook
Posted 10/21/19

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