TALLAHASSEE -- The Floridas governors race became a battleground over health care reform Thursday as Democrat Charlie Crist aggressively responded to a heavily-financed attack ad from Republican Gov. Rick Scott, while the governor released a web ad with a 20-year-old cancer patient endorsing him.
Crist launched a digital ad that will run exclusively online and in social media attacking the governor for his misleading television ad that goes after Crist for his support of President Barack Obamas health care insurance overhaul. The ads are airing in the states 10 media markets and the Florida Democratic Party has asked stations to remove Scotts ad because of its inaccurate content.
Rick Scott wants to take us back to the days of insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, where women are charged more than men, and lifetime caps limit care even for kids with cancer, says the narrator in Crists 30-second ad that ends with a shot of Scott in 1995 taken during a two-hour deposition when he was head of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA.
Scotts ad features Crist, the former Florida governor, being asked by CNN if he thought Obamacare has harmed Floridians. He replied: I dont think so at all. I think its been great.
The $2 million ad campaign, which debuted last week by Scotts Lets Get to Work committee, also repeats statements about the impact of Obamacare that the Associated Press and PolitiFact have demonstrated are inaccurate.
Florida Democratic Party lawyer Mark Herron asked 67 television stations across the state to refrain from running it because it contains patently false information.
But in a sign of how delicately the Crist campaign is handling the issue, the response ad quotes the news articles and highlights the features of the Affordable Care Act, yet does not mention the name of the act or its unofficial label, Obamacare.
The Obama administrations troubled rollout of the health care plan, especially with its website healthcare.gov, has given Republicans plenty of political ammunition against Democrats. This week, the administration announced its March 31 deadline to enroll would be extended indefinitely.
In a conference call with reporters, Crist supporter Dan Gelber, a former state senator from Miami, called Scotts latest ad shameful not just because its mostly false and misleading, but it also confirms Rick Scott has no vision.
He said he didnt know why the ad didnt refer to Obamacare, but said Crist will not shy away from defending the programs benefits.
We will respond forcefully to these false ads, Gelber said. On healthcare, for instance, we believe we should be making the law work.
RPOF spokeswoman Susan Hepworth challenged the wisdom of the strategy.
They are desperately trying to change the subject away from the fact that they, and their darling candidate Charlie Crist, support a devastating, disastrous, and wildly unpopular law that harms Floridians. It didnt work before and it wont work this time, she said.
On the same day Crist released his digital ad buy, the Scott campaign released a web ad featuring an unidentified 20-year-old University of Florida student who has cancer. I stand with Governor Rick Scott because he supports people like me, the student says.
The ad was shot to highlight Scotts recent proposal to give more money to expand cancer research in Florida.
Scott has called for the repeal of Obamacare, but has not offered a solution for what he would like to see replace the portion of the act that protects young people with cancer from being denied insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
Recent Florida polls have shown that support for the health care reform breaks along party lines and that a narrow majority of independent voters oppose it.
The reforms, however, have the support of blacks and Hispanics. Support for the expansion of Medicaid, which disproportionately enrolls minorities, is also widely popular but the Republican-dominated Legislature has refused to do approve it.
Polls also show Scott trailing Crist in a head-to-head matchup, even though Crist is just one of a number of Democrats seeking the nomination.
The Crist campaign will spend thousands of dollars posting the ad on various online platforms and will adjust that daily, said Kevin Cate, Crist spokesman. He declined to disclose specific numbers.