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Law & Order vs. Health Care in Suburbs 09/20 12:23

   Scores of suburban districts are back in play in the GOP's long-shot attempt 
to win House control in November's election. Democrats who used health care to 
capture the majority in 2018 are emphasizing it anew, saying they'll shield 
voters from Republicans trying to tear coverage away during a pandemic.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- In Republican hands for 28 years but now up for grabs, a 
suburban Missouri congressional district hugging St. Louis has become a lab for 
what each party considers one of its most lethal political weapons.

   TV ads by GOP Rep. Ann Wagner show protesters stomping a police car as the 
narrator accuses Democratic challenger Jill Schupp of support from "radical 
defund the police organizations." A Schupp spot says Wagner voted "against 
people with preexisting conditions during COVID." The coronavirus causes 

   The pattern is similar outside Philadelphia, where GOP Rep. Brian 
Fitzpatrick accuses Democratic challenger Christina Finelo of supporting police 
defunding. Finelo's first ad says Fitzpatrick's backed ending coverage for 
people with preexisting conditions. Each contests the other's charge.

   Scores of suburban districts are back in play in the GOP's long-shot attempt 
to win House control in November's election. Democrats who used health care to 
capture the majority in 2018 are emphasizing it anew, saying they'll shield 
voters from Republicans trying to tear coverage away during a pandemic.

   "This is as current an issue as can possibly be," said Leslie Dach, who 
heads the Democratic-backed Protect Our Care Coalition.

   In some races, Republicans are talking up lawlessness to try stemming 
defections of educated, moderate suburban voters from the GOP, spurred by 
aversion to President Donald Trump. But even where Republican candidates 
promote themes such as rebuilding the economy, Trump's blunt-force ads and his 
tweets on law and order have kept it in the forefront.

   "If I don't win, America's Suburbs will be OVERRUN with Low Income Projects, 
Anarchists, Agitators, Looters and, of course, `Friendly Protesters,'" he 
tweeted recently.

   Wagner has voted for bills that would have ended the coverage that former 
President Barack Obama's health care law guarantees people with preexisting 
conditions. She's introduced bills to protect such coverage, her campaign says.

   Schupp has said she opposes defunding police, a far-left call to restructure 
and even cut police agencies that many Democrats reject. She's been backed by 
Indivisible, a progressive group that supports the proposal.

   Each party says their messaging is poll-tested and will work.

   Public safety and police defunding are "an increasingly significant and 
powerful issue" in suburbs, said Dan Conston, president of the Congressional 
Leadership Fund. Conston, whose group is aligned with House GOP leaders, said 
with health care, Democrats are betting "their tired, dated arguments will 

   "Health care is the number one issue that people care about," counters Rep. 
Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign 
Committee, House Democrats' campaign arm. She says Democrats are "on the right 
side" on law and order, supporting peaceful marchers but denouncing "people who 
are burning buildings."

   So far, public polling offers scant evidence that the GOP's law and order 
arguments have taken hold.

   A Monmouth University Poll this month showed voters nationally trust 
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden slightly more than Trump to maintain 
law and order. It also found just 13 percent say it's highly likely that 
integrating suburbs would worsen crime and harm property values.

   A September survey by The New York Times and Siena College found that while 
majorities in swing states Wisconsin and Minnesota called lawlessness a major 
U.S. problem, few considered it a primary concern at home.

   Republicans say they've detected growing support on the issue since last 
month's violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after police shot a Black man. This 
summer's racial justice protests have been largely peaceful, but images of 
violent ones have received widespread attention.

   Defunding police "is an absolute loser with suburban voters," said GOP 
consultant Liesl Hickey. She said the issue is a twofer because it "plays into 
the bigger fear of what they see as the radical left."

   Still, Republicans say they must use the theme carefully.

   "I think Democrats are vulnerable to it," said Sam Geduldig, who advised 
former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "But the harder you go on it, the 
more it turns off some of those wealthy suburban voters in some districts we 

   In 31 House races where Democrats have aired ads and Bustos' organization is 
helping them, spots in 28 contests make health care arguments, according to 
committee figures.

   One attacks Republican Nick Freitas, challenging Democratic Rep. Abigail 
Spanberger outside Richmond, Virginia. It criticizes him for accepting 
insurance company contributions and favoring repeal of Obama's health care law, 
even when the pandemic means "Virginians couldn't be more in need" of coverage. 
Freitas has said he thinks government intrusion into health care doesn't help.

   Democrats have run health care themed ads against Republicans in numerous 
states including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Texas. According to 
data from the ad-tracking company Kantar/CMAG, Biden's campaign has run a spot 
in around 30 states. In it, he promises to protect people's coverage "the same 
way I would my own."

   So far, Republicans have used law and order themes more selectively, 
including in New York and Nebraska. In Michigan, GOP Rep. Fred Upton has run a 
spot criticizing Democratic opponent Jon Hoadley, a state lawmaker who opposed 
a resolution urging local governments to not defund police departments.

   "The political extremists have gone too far," the ad says as protesters 
smash storefronts. On his campaign website, Hoadley says he favors changes such 
as training officers to avoid racial bias.

   In a coastal district south of Los Angeles, Republican challenger Michelle 
Steel has talked about taxes, while Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda has focused on 
health care and prescription drug costs.

   Recent Trump ads have largely emphasized restoring the economy, not blazing 
buildings. Many House GOP ads also use other issues, accusing Democrats of 
backing tax increases and linking them to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 
a favorite foil.

   Even so, according to Kantar/CMAG, one Trump campaign spot that's run this 
month in a half-dozen states accuses Biden of wanting to defund the police.

   "The radical left has taken over Joe Biden," the announcer says as 
protesters batter windows. It adds, "Don't let them take over America."

   Biden has repeatedly said he opposes defunding the police.

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