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Medicaid expansion looms large in governor's races

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation, The Cook Political Report; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Democrats running for governor in states that haven't expanded Medicaid are making the expansion a central part of their campaigns.

Why it matters: Democrats up and down the ballot are focused on health care. But while congressional races are largely debates about the Trump administration's Affordable Care Act agenda or "Medicare for All," Medicaid expansion is an issue that gubernatorial candidates would actually have a lot of power to influence.

What we're watching: Democrats in competitive races in non-expansion states — including Florida, Georgia, Kansas and Wisconsin — are making it a point of contrast with their Republican opponents.

  • Democrat Tony Evers, who is challenging Republican Scott Walker in Wisconsin, addressed the issue in his first TV ad of the general election.
  • In Georgia, Stacey Abrams brings up her support for Medicaid expansion often, and includes it in advertising.
  • Even in states that have adopted the expansion, Democrats are touting their support and arguing that Republican opponents would scale back the program. (Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer has an ad making that point.)

The other side: Medicaid expansion is typically pretty popular, and Republicans have been struggling with how to handle the issue, the Washington Post reported in July.

  • Brian Kemp, who's running against Abrams in Georgia, has explicitly shot down the idea of expansion: “Medicaid costs too much and fails to deliver for hardworking Georgians,” a spokesman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • But most are quiet about the issue, preferring instead to launch their own offensives about Democrats' increasing embrace of "Medicare for All."
  • Republicans are running ads in Maryland emphasizing how much Democrat Ben Jealous's single-payer health care plan would cost taxpayers.

Although governors have less power to attempt single-payer than to expand Medicaid, some Democratic gubernatorial candidates have still weighed in: Democrat Andrew Gillum's first TV ad after winning his party's nomination in Florida highlighted his support for "Medicare for All."

Editor's note: This post was corrected to show Tony Evers is challenging Scott Walker in Wisconsin (not Michigan) and to fix some typos in names..

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