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Blue Dogs Targeted in Pro-Reform Ads

Healthy Economy Now, a coalition of groups supporting the push for health care reform, is dropping $7 million on a new television ad campaign to build momentum for a reform bill and to keep six moderate House Democrats from walking away from supporting legislation as it moves through Congress in the coming weeks.

A generic version of the new ad will appear in 17 states over the next two weeks, but voters will be encouraged to call their Members and ask them to support health care reform in a version of the ad appearing in the districts of Democratic Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah), Charlie Melancon (La.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.) and John Tanner (Tenn.).

All six Members are part of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats and all hail from conservative districts. Most of the Members targeted in the Healthy Economy Now ad have taken fire from the right already this cycle, especially from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has tried to tie them to their more liberal party leadership.

None of the six is considered particularly vulnerable at this stage of the election cycle, though Melancon is contemplating challenging Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) next year.

Healthy Economy Now was created this spring, and this is the third television ad that the group has run. The group spent a combined $5 million on its first two ads. The latest ad was produced by GMMB, a democratic media firm.

The new ad, titled “If,— shows a series of images of people as an announcer states: “If we don’t act, medical bills will wipe out their savings. If we don’t act, she’ll be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And he won’t get the chemo he needs. …

“But we can act. The president and Congress have a plan to lower your costs and stop denials for pre-existing conditions. It’s time to act.—

In the targeted ads, text is included in the final sequence that encourages voters to call their Member “and tell him it’s time to act.—

Healthy Economy Now includes lobbying groups that represent many of the biggest players in the health care industry, including pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, medical device makers and doctors. But hospital groups, which recently announced a deal on health reform with the White House and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), are noticeably absent.

The group also includes key players in the health care debate that don’t necessarily agree on specific reform proposals. For example, the seniors’ lobby AARP and the Biotechnology Industry Organization are both helping to fund the ad campaign but are divided when it comes to details of creating generic, or follow-on, biologics.

“This coalition is committed to helping build greater consensus and support among the American public to help ensure that a bipartisan health care reform bill gets to the White House this year,— Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said in a statement. “Through a national advertising campaign, Healthy Economy Now is highlighting how our nation’s economic security is inextricably tied to its health care security.—

Other groups in the coalition are the Service Employees International Union, the Business Roundtable, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Families USA.

The Business Roundtable, SEIU and AARP have gotten together before to push for health care reforms in the group Divided We Fail, which launched in 2007. Divided We Fail’s other member, the National Federation of Independent Business, is not a sponsor of the Healthy Economy Now campaign.

“These ads demonstrate in real terms what is at stake if Congress does not act — and act now — on fixing our health care system,— said Lori Lodes, an SEIU spokeswoman. “It’s about making sure Members come to the table and not let this moment pass.—