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Sargent: How Democrats hope to move beyond Obamacare

By Greg Sargent

The Washington Post

First Published Feb 13 2014 05:14 pm • Last Updated Feb 13 2014 05:14 pm
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Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has seized on a study out this week finding that more than 250,000 women would get a raise in Kentucky if the federal minimum wage were increased.

Grimes, who supports raising the minimum wage (which McConnell opposes), is aiming to spark a larger discussion of pay equity — turf that Democrats hope will favor them in an otherwise hostile political climate, particularly in red states.

Of course, if the economy continues to sputter, this emphasis could work against Democrats. Republicans are using bad jobs numbers to intensify attacks on the Affordable Care Act. And Obamacare remains deeply unpopular in Kentucky, even though its exchange has succeeded in expanding coverage to poor, rural people who desperately need it.

The bigger story here — one we’ll see in other red states — is that Democrats hope to win despite Obamacare’s travails by broadening the conversation. The minimum wage, unemployment insurance and even Obamacare’s extension of health care to people who lack it are all part of a story line that helps Democrats — if it can supplant the GOP’s story line.

Republicans oppose extending unemployment insurance and expanding Medicaid, and they are using the recent Congressional Budget Office report as proof that extending health care to people who lack it saps the will to work — all of which risks dragging the conversation on to perilous "47 percent" turf.

Indeed, McConnell has dismissed Obamacare’s success in Kentucky by deriding "free health care." Grimes is likely to avoid picking direct fights over the health-care law, but in her race and others, the minimum wage and pay equity will be pressed to further emphasize Democrats’ preferred pocketbook narrative.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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