New ads target Titus

After voting in favor of health care reform legislation, Rep. Dina Titus finds herself caught in the crossfire between special interest groups.

At least three groups — two opposed to the bill, one in favor — feature Titus, D-Nev., in new video ads aimed at Nevadans.

The groups are focusing on Titus because hers is the most contested congressional race in the state this election cycle, when health care will probably be a top issue.

Reform legislation backers want to help Titus raise money and get votes, while opponents sense an opportunity to make her and others who voted for the bill pay for it at the ballot box.

"Republicans are going to take a look at any and all of the freshmen," said Nathan Gonzalez, an editor at the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. "They’re looking for every opportunity to try and crawl back to a majority."

Among the new ads featuring Titus is one by the group 60 Plus, which bill itself as a conservative alternative to the AARP. The group said it spent $1.5 million in nine markets, including Las Vegas.

Each version of its "How could you" ads features seniors from the targeted district criticizing a representative for voting in favor of the bill.

"The House passed a 2,000-page health care bill that cuts Medicare $400 billion, raises taxes on small business killing jobs and makes insurance you have cost more," the announcer in the 60 Plus ad says.

Later, a senior identified as Betty Rumford of Las Vegas says, "Nevada seniors won’t forget."

Carl Forti, a spokesman for The 60 Plus group, said it doesn’t take money from insurance companies or political action committees, and raises funds through individual contributions from dues-paying members.

"We believe that the Senate should not cut Medicare. This bill creates hundreds of entitlements and the only one it cuts is Medicare," Forti said.

But others say 60 Plus has twisted the facts in past ads aimed at seniors.

An analysis by the non-partisan Web site www.factcheck.org labeled a previous health care ad by 60 Plus as "mostly false".

The fact check group says 60 Plus exaggerated cuts to Medicare by not including enhancements and couldn’t back up claims that cuts in question would mean long waits for care.

Another ad thanks Titus for voting in favor of the reform bill. Health Care for America Now, the advocacy group behind the ad, is backed by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The latter attended a Titus fundraiser on Sunday in Las Vegas.

The group says it supports making health care affordable for every person, family and business, as well as backing a "public option" in the bill, which is a government-run health insurance program that could compete with private plans.

Yet another ad campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce takes Titus to task for the vote. The ad tells viewers to call Titus to tell her "she should have said ‘no’ to Washington and ‘yes’ to Nevada."

Whether the ads will work remains to be seen. Titus’ district is leaning in favor of Democrats over Republicans by about 40,000 voters, and has about 73,000 registered nonpartisans, according to Nevada Secretary of State statistics.

Republicans vying for the chance to challenge Titus include former state Sen. Joe Heck and Army veteran and military police reservist Rob Lauer.

"This is a district that has moved from a tossup district to a Democratic-leaning district since it was initially drawn," Gonzalez said.

Titus said she supported the health care legislation only after changes were made to reduce the number of people who would pay a surtax to pay for the plan by increasing the threshold for taxation from people making $280,000 to $500,000 and from $350,000 to $1 million for families.

Still, Titus spokesman Andrew Stoddard said the congresswoman expected to take some heat for the vote. "Knowing this was a big vote, we expected both sides are going to be out there trying to push their message on it," Stoddard said. "It almost feels like the election is a week away, with all the TV ads."

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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