Democrats running for the Senate aren't talking about the president's health care law, outside of occasionally calling for a fix. But in several pivotal gubernatorial races, the party's candidates have shown they're much more comfortable embracing Obamacare.
The phenomenon is no accident. The bulk of this year's competitive executive contests are in Democratic-leaning states carried by the president in 2012, where the law is less toxic than in the red states that dominate the Senate electoral landscape.
Plus, state officials, such as Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, aren't struggling like their federal counterparts to square a congressional vote with sour public opinion. "The problem for the Republican governors is, this election may focus in congressional races on whether you voted for it or whether you didn't, but folks know Democratic governors and Republican governors didn't vote for it, because they weren't there. We had the job of implementing it," says Democratic Governors Association Chairman Peter Shumlin of Vermont.
In this year's gubernatorial contests, the main Obamacare issue is Medicaid expansion, the only part of the Affordable Care Act that consistently polls well across the country and also rests singularly in the hands of the nation's governors. In at least half a dozen races from Wisconsin to Georgia, Democrats plan to attack Republican incumbents for not expanding Medicaid — and they believe it's one of their top issues: An estimated 4.8 million people fall within the Medicaid eligibility gap because they don't live in states where they've been afforded the ability to enroll.