Health care helped Democrats win in Kentucky but 2020 candidates are changing the playbook

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear speaks at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event in Louisville on Nov. 5, 2019.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear speaks at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event in Louisville on Nov. 5, 2019.Bryan Woolston / AP

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — In Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, Democrats once again used the issue of health care to help them win a political contest in Red or Purple America.

Their playbook, as they also employed in 2018: attack Republicans for trying to take away health care; emphasize protections for those with pre-existing conditions; and promise to expand coverage to those who need it.

So why are some of their top presidential candidates changing the playbook by calling for Medicare for All and eliminating private insurance?

“Matt Bevin is trying to take away their health care,” Democrat Andy Beshear said in one of his TV ads in Kentucky’s gubernatorial contest. “As attorney general, I'm helping lead a national effort to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions. As governor, I'll work to lower health-care costs for all of us.”

“As governor, he’s trying to rip away health care from our families,” Beshear said of Bevin in another ad.

The political challenge for Medicare for All supporters like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is that their plans are also subject to the attack that someone is trying to take away their health care — i.e., their private insurance.

Yes, Sanders and Warren argue that private insurance costs more than the government doing it, and that Medicare for All could reduce health-care costs for most Americans.

But note who isn't making the argument for Medicare for All: Andy Beshear in Kentucky. Or Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania. Or Sharice Davids in Kansas.

Interestingly, before the first Democratic debate, Elizabeth Warren’s top argument on health care was that Republicans are trying to take health care — and that there many different paths to cover more Americans.

“So when we're talking about health care in America right now, the first thing we need to be talking about is defend the Affordable Care Act, protection under the Affordable Care Act,” Warren said at CNN’s town hall back in March.

“And then when we talk about Medicare for All, there are a lot of different pathways. What we're all looking for is the lowest cost way to make sure everybody gets covered. And some folks are talking about let's start lowering the age, maybe bring it down to 60, 55, 50.”

That kind of rhetoric from Warren changed after the first debate when she said she supported eliminating private insurance.

Recanvass in Kentucky to take place on Nov. 14

Speaking of Tuesday’s race in Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin still isn’t conceding and has filed a formal request for a recanvass.

“Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes tweeted that her office had received Bevin's request and that the recount would be conducted on Thursday, Nov. 14,” per NBC News.

Bevin trails Beshear by more than 5,000 votes.

2020 Vision: In Sessions

The large — and eclectic — Republican field to take on Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., is getting more crowded.

And certainly more interesting.

Former Sen. and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions intends to announce his intention to run for his old Senate seat, NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reports, citing two sources familiar with the decision.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

Sessions joins a field that already includes Roy Moore (whom Jones defeated after Sessions vacated the seat to become attorney general), Rep. Bradley Byrne, D-Ala., and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Alabama’s primary is March 3, and the likely runoff is March 31.

Turning to the Democratic presidential race, a Quinnipiac poll released yesterday showed the Democratic horserace in Iowa this way: Warren 20 percent, Buttigieg 19 percent, Sanders 17 percent, Biden 15 percent, Klobuchar 5 percent, Harris 4 percent and Gabbard and Yang at 3 percent.

Gabbard’s 3 percent appears to get her into the Nov. 20 Dem debate in Atlanta.

On the campaign trail today

Vice President Pence files for President Trump in the New Hampshire primary… Andrew Yang also stumps in the Granite State… Amy Klobuchar campaigns in Iowa… Elizabeth Warren is in North Carolina, where she has a conversation with Angela Rye and holds a town hall in Raleigh… And Pete Buttigieg raises money in New York City.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Pete Buttigieg is slightly altering his attack on Elizabeth Warren’s plan to pay for Medicare for All, NBC’s Priscilla Thompson points out. “During an interview on PBS’s News Hour, Buttigieg was asked for his thoughts on Warren’s plan to pay for Medicare for All. He said, ‘Well, there is a lot of aggressive math in there about cutting the military, assuming that immigration reform happens, and getting about a trillion out of that, and some other areas that are controversial among the economists. The point I'm making is that we don't need to spend tens of trillions of dollars in order to address this problem.’ This is a sharper answer than he gave when asked this exact question during a gaggle on his bus on Sunday, and when discussing the issue on Morning Joe on Monday, when he said, ‘If you’re just counting on immigration reform for a trillion dollars-worth of the funding for a hallmark plan it raises some concerns about how achievable it is.’”

Data Download: The number of the day is … 97.25 percent

97.25 percent.

That's the percentage of the vote received by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions during his last reelection race in 2014, when he ran unopposed in the general election. The remainder of the votes were write-ins.

Sessions ran also ran unopposed in the Republican primary earlier that year.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Hot take

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we asked what those Kentucky and Virginia results really meant for the GOP.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

The president has a new word to describe Democrats: "Totalitarian."

Here are the rules of the road for the November debate.

Tulsi Gabbard appears to have qualified for the next Democratic primary debate.

The Washington Post reports that AG Bill Barr declined to hold a news conference — requested by the president — to say Trump had committed no crimes in his Ukraine call.

The first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry are set to begin next week.

Trump Agenda: Conspiracy theories strike again

Trump's Twitter allies are seizing on conspiracy theories about a key witness in the impeachment proceedings.

Trump and Mitch McConnell are still allies in D.C. — despite their party suffering losses in Kentucky.

2020: Watching African-American turnout

Election Night was a good one for Democrats, but it came with a warning about black voters, Dave Wasserman writes for NBC.

Gun control and climate issues are top priorities for Democrats in Virginia now that they control state government.

Amy Klobuchar took on the issue of whether female candidate have to adhere to a higher standard of "likability."

Elizabeth Warren's allies say she's facing gender-based attacks about being "angry."

Warren has to balance her prairie roots with her Ivy League staff, writes POLITICO.

Bernie Sanders plans to spend more than $30 million on ads in early states.

There are starting to be some real divides on immigration in the Democratic field, the AP writes.