I like this ad, as it creates a real sense of conflict with the powers in DC. Edwards makes the argument that if 50 million people don't have health care insurance, then Congress shouldn't either. Rhetorically, it's a continuation of his Two America's theme, and it's quite populist. In the last five polls about priorities, health care is a close number two or three to Iraq and the economy among voters.
Health care, though, is not a monolithic subject; discussing the cost of health care and quality of health care is different than discussing the reach of health care. The uninsured are younger, poorer, more single, and less white than the population as a whole. Because of Medicare, the elderly have been taken off the table on the issue, which is a structural problem we should solve since prescription drug gaps and the uninsured are both parts of the same problem. In other words, the uninsured are probably underrepresented in Iowa already, and are certainly underrepresented in the caucues.
To verify this, I sent an email to pollster Celinda Lake about the uninsured and whether they vote, and her response was interesting.
96 percent of voters in 2006 had insurance. It is one of strongest predictors of turnout.
In other words, it doesn't matter if this ad resonates among the uninsured, because the uninsured tend not to vote. That may change with the increase in youth voter and single women voting registration efforts, but these efforts are unlikely to impact the Iowa caucuses.
Will this ad resonate among Iowa caucus-goers themselves? It's hard to say. Universal health care is something Democrats believe in as a matter of principle, but a whiter, older, married population of caucus goers is unlikely to take the issue itself into account when choosing their candidate. The goal, of course, is to tell a story about what kind of President Edwards will be, to draw out a character issue and say that Edwards is with the dispossessed rather than the elite.
I've never thought messaging that plays upon the status of voters as victims made sense, and Edwards's earlier poverty arguments suffered from that problem. Still, the populism is quite attractive and mitigates the victimization strain. Clinton, Obama and the DC insiders clearly see this as 'angry' and hypocritical, and perhaps the latter charge makes sense since Edwards has shifted his positions since 2004. Still, the notion of forcing decision-makers to bear the costs of their decisions is a powerful argument, one we don't hear nearly enough.
My read on the race is quite off, but I think it's a successful ad and a good message. What do you think?