Run on it or run away from it?
When it comes to Kentucky's health insurance exchange, that's the decidedly complicated question facing Democrats running for statewide office in a state that seems to hate Obamacare and seems to like Kynect.
Yes, they are the same thing, but polling has generally revealed that Kentuckians don't view them equally, most likely because of the prefixes.
So as Democrat Jack Conway gets his gubernatorial campaign underway in earnest, many Democrats are asking: Will Conway run on the health care exchange and the Medicaid expansion implemented by Gov. Steve Beshear or will he avoid it like the plague because it was birthed by President Barack Obama?
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In last year's midterms, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes chose to run from it, offering vague talk of fixing the program but falling well short of a full-throated defense or promotion.
She lost by almost 16 percentage points.
In Kentucky's Sixth Congressional District, Democrat Elizabeth Jensen ran on it, embracing Beshear's move and hailing the program as a wild success.
Jensen lost by about 20 points.
There were countless other factors in both races, but the two candidates represented different ways of approaching the issue.
There is much about Republican Matt Bevin that is unknown, but he has been true to his Tea Party base of support and crystal clear about his feelings toward Kynect and Obamacare.
Kill Kynect, Bevin says, telling Politico recently that the program is "redundant." He would transition Kentuckians to the federal health insurance exchange within a year of being elected, even though he has repeatedly said he hopes the federal exchange will die.
As for the expansion of Medicaid eligibility approved by Beshear, Bevin wants to roll that back, too.
"When you re-enroll, you may or may not have access to Medicaid going forward," Bevin told Politico. "People are not on it for extended periods of time. It's not meant to be a lifestyle. It really isn't. The point of it is to provide for those who truly have need."
So it's largely clear where Bevin stands on the issue, leaving us to wonder about Conway.
In an interview on primary day, the Herald-Leader asked Conway whether he planned to run on Kynect or run away from it.
"Look, I don't think you run away from it," Conway said. "I don't think you run on it or run away from it."
Conway said he plans to say this year that "we've got a half million more people here now that have health insurance than had it a couple of years ago."
"And the debate on the other side of the aisle has been, 'let's tear it down immediately,'" Conway said. "That makes very little sense to me because all they're going to do is kick a half-million people off insurance without any plan to make certain that they're covered. And so I don't want to do that."
Republicans have argued that their opposition to Kynect is not rooted in a lack of compassion but rather a lack of money. There's no such thing as free health care, they say, and the time when the federal government reimburses 100 percent of the cost of newly eligible Medicaid recipients will soon come to an end.
But Conway argued that it is far too early to view the health care exchange and the Medicaid expansion as cost-prohibitive.
"We won't know the full cost of the Medicaid expansion until 2021, and so I think it's very difficult for anyone, on either side of the aisle, to sit here in 2015 and say we can't afford something in 2021," he said.
"And I think it's very callous to scream, 'We can't afford something in 2021, so I'm going to just kick half a million people off of health insurance.' That doesn't make any sense to me. We need to try to make this work. I intend to try to make it work."
Conway added: "If we get another five years down the road and find out that we can't afford something, we can change our course of action. Perhaps we can scale back. I'm ready to engage in that process. But what I'm not willing to do is look a half-million Kentuckians, who are our brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, I'm not going to kick them off of health insurance because Kentucky needs to get healthier, and this is helping us to do it."
Conway's less-than-firm stance on the issue is hardly surprising, given that the risk of embracing the program for a Democrat is very real.
The Republican Governors Association has already been explicitly clear that it plans to follow U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's playbook and do everything it can to tie Conway to Obama.
But Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said that "both candidates could benefit from avoiding a concentrated fight over Kynect."
"They may want to signal in guarded words that they support their party's overall orientation on the issue, satisfying the party base, without digging into the policy details," Voss said. "Conway risks just as much telling how he'd pay for it as Bevin risks giving details how he'd try to roll it back."
But Voss also said, "While in general, research shows that candidates usually benefit when they aim for the political center, my gut tells me that in this instance, Conway ought to embrace Kynect."
"Embracing Kynect allows Conway to shift the focus of the election from social/cultural issues, where Democrats suffer here, to economic issues, where Democrats can fight from a stronger position," Voss said. "In particular, strongly backing Kynect gives Conway a message to push in poor sections of the state that typically lean Republican."
Plus, Voss said, the governor that Conway is hoping to follow will no doubt be more eager to hit the campaign trail on Conway's behalf if his would-be successor is vocal in endorsing what could be the cornerstone of Beshear's legacy.
"Beshear will have a much easier time stumping for Conway and the down-ticket Democratic races if he can focus on protecting his work, instead of having to back a gubernatorial candidate only willing to give lukewarm support to the policy that made the governor famous," Voss said.
Of course, with the Supreme Court set to let the nation know soon what the future of Obamacare will look like, much of this debate could become moot, or at least more complicated.
Either way, Kentuckians should know sooner than later just which track Conway will ultimately take.
On Friday, both candidates are scheduled to make their first joint public appearance. It's a safe bet that Conway will get the chance to let the state know: Is he running from it or running on it?