The Herald Bulletin

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June 16, 2013

Senate Democrats firm up health care support

(Continued)

ATLANTA —

Hagan and her North Carolina colleagues paid special attention to pharmaceutical companies that develop drugs called "biologics." They negotiated 12-year monopolies for those drugs, a win for the biomedical sector that dominates the "Research Triangle" around Raleigh.

Veteran North Carolina political observer Gary Pearce, a Democrat, said Hagan also could benefit from the fact that leading GOP candidates expected to challenge her come from the new legislative supermajorities that have pursued a long list of conservative priorities, including rejecting Medicaid expansion that North Carolina hospitals wanted. A Republican primary fight among top statehouse Republicans, Pearce said, could leave Hagan "in a good position to paint Republicans in a right-wing corner."

In Louisiana, the GOP may find its health care expert in Rep. Bill Cassidy, who spent several decades as a hospital physician in Baton Rouge and has served among leading GOP congressional critics of the law. But as a congressman, Cassidy voted with his caucus to repeal the law in full more than three dozen times.

Justin Barasky, Senate Democrats' campaign spokesman, said those votes give Democrats fodder to argue that the GOP candidate sided with big insurance companies. The same scenario could apply in Arkansas if Rep. Tom Cotton, who's expected to run, ends up as GOP nominee.

Landrieu also can use Jindal as a GOP counter on health care. Now chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Jindal has dismantled the state hospital system that Louisiana State University runs, closing some facilities and contracting with private firms to run others. Voters have not embraced the changes.

Arkansas Republican strategist Alice Stewart acknowledged that her party has had only mixed success using health care as a national issue, but she said Pryor's eventual GOP opponent can make it resonate.

"It's not just a generic criticism of Obamacare," she said. "This is part of explaining that Mark Pryor goes to Washington and doesn't represent the values of this conservative state." She recalled then-Rep. John Boozman ousting Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010 after her vote for the law.

"Voters here remember that going from Blanche to Sen. Boozman was an important step," Stewart said. "Mark's in the same boat."

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