Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Bishop’s campaign website doesn’t mention Obamacare, even though web archives show it once prominently featured promises to vigorously fight the 2010 health-care law.
Kentucky GOP Rep. Andy Barr touted repealing the Affordable Care Act as one of three top priorities when first running for Congress in 2012. Now his website focuses on tax cuts and job creation instead.
In her first House bid in 2014, Virginia Rep. GOP Barbara Comstock said her campaign was about growing the economy, creating jobs and “repealing and replacing Obamacare.” She’s not talking about that anymore.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Republican candidates across the country find themselves bereft of what was once their favorite talking point: repealing and replacing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act– and all the havoc they alleged it has wreaked.
That’s because the GOP failed dramatically in its efforts last year to roll back the ACA as its first big legislative delivery on the promise of single-party control of Washington from Congress to the White House. That defeat has quickly turned attacks on Obamacare from centerpiece into pariah on the campaign trail, a sudden disappearing act that Democrats are looking to exploit as they seek to regain power in the midterms.
“Yeah, we probably can’t talk credibly about repeal and replace anymore,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), a key architect of the House-passed version of an ACA rollback that failed in the Senate.
The “repeal and replace” mantra was a mainstay of Republican campaigns for four straight election cycles, propelling the GOP into the House majority in 2010, the Senate majority four years later and in 2016, helping to keep Republicans in power and elect President Trump. Getting rid of Obamacare was a proud theme for GOP party and conservative groups, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars beating Democrats over the head with charges the law was unaffordable.
Eighty-four percent of Republican-affiliated health-care ads in 2014 attacked the ACA, while only 11 percent of Democrat-affiliated ads touted it, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Kantar Media. Out of 849 unique ads that referenced the ACA that year, 87 percent of them backed a Republican candidate and opposed the law.
But since the dramatic defeat of an ACA rollback bill in the Senate last July, many Republican candidates don’t have much to say about health care at all.
Instead, if they do talk about health care on the campaign trail, it is only to say they have been able to change pieces of Obamacare — repealing the individual mandate as part their 2017 tax overhaul, for instance, and the Trump administration’s push to allow plans to be sold that fall short of ACA standards.
“If I were running, I’d tout that,” said retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), referring to the end of the individual mandate.
The problem for the GOP is that a majority of the public wants to move toward more government control of health care. A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Friday found 51 percent of all Americans, including 54 percent of independents, support a national health plan.