WASHINGTON (AP) -- After months of watching Democrats get hammered over President Barack Obama's health care law, friends of an embattled senator are fighting back by proudly linking him to "Obamacare."
An independent group in Alaska is airing a TV ad that praises Democratic Sen. Mark Begich for helping people obtain insurance even if they have "pre-existing conditions," such as cancer.
The 30-second ad doesn't mention Obama or his health care law by name. But the narrator -- an Alaska woman who says Begich helped her obtain insurance that previously was denied because of her breast cancer -- highlights one of the law's main features.
The ad is among the first, if not the first, to unapologetically associate a Democrat with the health care law in a tightly contested Senate race.
Begich joined all other Senate Democrats in voting for the measure in 2010, when not a single Republican lawmaker did so.
He and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana -- another Democrat being pounded on health care in a state Obama lost -- are among those seeking to modify the law. They would provide a lower-cost, high-deductible "Copper" plan, and restore startup funds for consumer-driven health insurance cooperatives. The senators also would direct state insurance regulators to develop models for selling policies across state lines.
Begich is seeking re-election in a state Obama lost by 14 percentage points in 2012. Groups affiliated with the conservative brothers Charles and David Koch are airing ads criticizing Begich for backing the health care law.
Democratic strategists have spent months trying to decide how best to answer Republican attacks on Obamacare in Begich's state, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, Arkansas and others.
The independent group Put Alaska First is spending nearly $131,000 to run the pro-Begich ad statewide for a week, and it may continue beyond that, said group treasurer Jim Lottsfeldt.
He said his organization did not conduct polls or focus groups to decide whether embracing the health law is popular in Alaska. "Good stories make good ads," Lottsfeldt said of the cancer survivor who thanks Begich for his help.
Begich campaign spokesman Max Croes said the campaign does not comment on activities by friendly outside groups. Such groups are legally barred from conferring with candidates or their campaigns.
Several Republicans are running in the Aug. 19 Alaska primary for the right to challenge Begich in November.
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