Here’s an amazing political statistic: In 2016, the Affordable Care Act came up in just 10 percent of pro-Democrat campaign advertisements and 16 percent of pro-Republican ones. This year, it came up in more than half of Democratic ads and nearly a third of those for Republicans.
Those numbers, which come from the Wesleyan Media Project, help demonstrate the way the law’s politics have gone topsy-turvy and its political sway has grown since President Donald Trump came into office. After 2016, Republicans found themselves in the position of fighting against a law that suddenly went from being unpopular to being popular. And Democrats found themselves in the position of fighting to defend its good parts rather than having to explain away its bad ones. For the first time in nearly a decade, they’re running on health care rather than away from it.
Health care has become the single most important policy topic in the midterm elections—everywhere and nowhere, a strange kind of omnipresent sleeper issue. It’s not grabbing many national headlines, compared with the migrant caravan or the Supreme Court fight or violence directed against minority groups or the trade war, but it’s motivating voters in race after race after race. New polling from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that Americans point to the cost of health care more than any other issue when asked what is most important to them this election cycle. “It’s official: The 2018 midterms are about health care,” Wesleyan argued.