In case you missed it yesterday, President Bill Clinton spoke at his presidential library yesterday to tout the benefits of Obamacare.

Clinton was sure to heap praise on Arkansas Republicans who helped pass the state’s private option plan on a bi-partisan basis.  Both Republican Speaker Davy Carter and Senate President Pro Temp Michael Lamoureux sat alongside Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. (Side note – praising Obamacare and the private option in the same breath is not the best way to continue to hold the necessary 3/4ths of the state legislators needed to continue funding the program, but that’s another post.)

Missing from the pep rally were two key Democrats: gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross and Senator Mark Pryor.

We heard from a report in The Hill last week that Pryor could not attend due to the official campaign line that he had “a previously scheduled engagement out of town that day.”  But The New York Times today confirms what we all suspected.

Despite the bipartisan show, health care is a contentious topic in Arkansas politics that conservatives have seized on in local campaigns. Mr. Pryor did not attend the event for risk of being too closely associated with the health care law, according to one person with knowledge of his plans, but who was not authorized to discuss them publicly. A campaign spokesman has said that Mr. Pryor had a scheduling conflict.

Incredible, considering he has spent the last month going all in on Obamacare – saying it is “an amazing success story,” that “it’s actually working” and that he stands by his vote. Now all of a sudden, he is scared to be seen with President Clinton saying good things about the law.  Is he backtracking? What is going on here?

I will also note that it is the second leak from the campaign in recent days. The liberal blog Slate let it slip that the Pryor campaign is pushing around Tom Cotton’s college papers, such as a review of a book on race relations to try to sling a bit of mud on Cotton, but does not want the leaks tied back to them.  Slate disclosed this, then deleted it. Oops.

Also missing from the Obamacare rally was Mike Ross who is also trying to play a bit of dodge-and-weave on the issue.

“Mike Ross was at previously scheduled events in Malvern and Texarkana yesterday,” said his campaign spokesman Brad Howard.

Republican Asa Hutchinson has been punching hard at Ross for his committee vote to advance the Obamacare legislation in 2009. In a fundraising email last week, Hutchinson said “the liberal machine is now consolidating around Obamacare enabler Mike Ross.”

Ross has attempted to push back against this narrative that he was the deciding vote for Obamacare.

“That’s a lie. There was no deciding vote. The vote was 31 to 28,” said Ross on Capital View a few weeks ago. “People that continue to blog and through social media and even on this program and those who continue to say that I was the deciding vote need to go back to 3rd grade math because there was no deciding vote in a 31 to 28 vote.”

Of course, this is a bit of revisionist history for Ross.  I covered this debate pretty extensively at the time and Ross was even gracious enough to take a question from me on this vote.

“It was 10 days of very intense negotiation,” Ross told me at the time when I asked him about this committee vote. “I was not trying to kill health care reform. If I was, I would not have been in negotiations for 10 days. But we knew that once we reached an agreement the extreme right would say that I caved and the extreme left would protest and that is exactly what happened. I am in the middle and I have the extremes of both sides coming at me and that’s OK because I’m in the middle and believe that is where the majority of American people are.”

If this vote did not matter to advance Obamacare, why were there “10 days of very intense negotiations” in Ross’ own words?  Clearly, it did matter. An article from The Washington Post points to this vote as “clearing a critical hurdle.”  Ross was the key leader of a coalition of “four key Democrats from rural districts” who were holding out together.  If I recall my third grade math correctly, these four Democrats that Ross voted with would have prevented the legislation from advancing.

Now To Ross’ credit, he heard loudly from his constituents during the August recess townhalls and reversed course, but to explain away this committee is trying to re-write history.

So I suppose it is really no surprise that Ross skipped the Obamacare rally with Clinton.

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Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.

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