Greg Sargent at the Washington Post highlights the Arkansas Blog’s recent coverage of Rep. Tom Cotton, who offered a somewhat garbled message on health care. Cotton, of course wants to repeal Obamacare. But he declined to take a position on the private option, which depends on Obamacare for funding. And while he opposes Obamacare, now he supports the law’s goals — “We want every Arkansan, we want every American, to have quality, affordable access to health care.” Great! Only he doesn’t offer any specifics about how he would achieve that. Repealing Obamacare would end the coverage of 190,000 (and counting) Arkansans, both private option beneficiaries and people buying plans on the Obamacare-created Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace (91 percent of whom are getting subsidies, via Obamacare, to help them with their premiums). Cottons says 1) Obamacare bad 2) we want everyone to have access to coverage…but then he skips right over how to achieve #2 without #1. That’s likely because, as a Republican aid put it, “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act.”
This is a trend for Republicans running for office across the country, Sargent writes. While “Obamacare” remains unpopular, so does repealing it altogether, and Republicans are coming to grips with the fact that millions would lose their coverage if the law was repealed. So they are forced into a dance: denounce Obamacare, claim they would do something so as not just to leave Obamacare beneficiaries out in the cold, but avoid any specifics on what that something might be. Here’s Sargent:
Republicans remain gung-ho for repeal, and continue to insist Obamacare is destroying the lives of millions, if not American freedom itself. And yet, Republican Senate candidates are increasingly sounding like Obamacare’s most ardent supporters in one key way: they are rhetorically embracing the imperative of expanding affordable health coverage to those who need it.
Republicans may still win the Senate in part by campaigning against Obamacare, which remains generally unpopular in red states, where the map dictates Senate control will be decided. But some GOP candidates are now embracing the general language of universal health coverage. It’s often observed advocating for repeal, with no replacement, is a loser. But there’s more to the story: Opposing Obamacare’s goals is becoming politically complicated.
This becomes particularly important as Republican lawmakers come home to campaign and meet the constituents whose benefits they are threatening to take away, as this Politico story points out:
Anti-Obamacare Republicans home on recess are coming face to face this week with newly insured constituents. It could be an interesting encounter.
No politician wants to sound eager to take government benefits away from voters — and while public opinion polls show the health care law is still controversial, millions of people are indeed getting assistance. Especially in states where enrollment finished strong, Republicans will need a nuanced message: Even if Obamacare helped you personally, it’s still bad for the country as a whole.