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Dems to launch health care campaign to offset GOP attacks

WASHINGTON - After months of being pummeled by Republican attacks on the new health care law, the Obama administration and its allies are striking back with a wide-ranging campaign to stem public disaffection with the health overhaul ahead of the November elections.

In coming days, the law's backers plan to kick off a nationwide, multimillion-dollar ad offensive being organized in consultation with the White House and with funding from wealthy individual donors and groups sympathetic to the administration's health agenda.

At the same time, dozens of leading consumer advocates, patient associations and medical groups, working independently and alongside the Obama administration, are scrambling to put together new initiatives to tout the law's benefits.

The effort is designed to counter the increasingly aggressive Republican campaign to paint the health care bill as a symbol of all that's wrong with Democratic-dominated Washington.

"I think a lot of people thought it would be a lot easier to sell the law after it passed," said Celinda Lake, an influential Democratic pollster working on the effort. "But Democrats can't hide from this. . . . We need to have a strong message about the new law."

With just 2 1/2 months until Election Day, however, it is unclear whether the president and his Democratic allies can sway a skeptical public that has been barraged by criticism of "Obamacare," as GOP critics derisively label the legislation.

GOP candidates and interest groups have dominated television markets across the country with ads attacking Democrats for supporting the bill, outspending supporters four-to-one since the spring.

A new Republican group launched by Karl Rove is now pressing the advantage with a $3.2-million ad campaign targeting five Democratic Senate candidates on health care, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.

And at least four Democrats running in conservative House districts have now aired ads highlighting their votes against the health care overhaul.

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