In 2014, Republican David Perdue ran for an open Senate seat in Georgia promising to “Repeal ObamaCare” and “replace it with more affordable free market solutions.”
Six years later, his campaign reelection site has removed all traces of that promise and says only that lawmakers must “finally get after the real drivers of spiraling health care costs.”
Perdue is not alone. A comparison of 2014 and 2020 campaign sites for Republicans in competitive Senate races finds that seven have made their original 2014 anti-Obamacare language disappear.
As public support has grown for the law, Senate Republicans have gone from making their opposition to Obamacare a major campaign thrust to being virtually silent on the issue. Public opinion on health care policy could be one reason.
On Thursday, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans now support the the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and just 37 percent oppose it.
This is a significant increase since November 2014, when Kaiser found 37 percent support for the law, compared to 46 percent opposition.
Other Senate Republicans have shifted their language on the issue in the years since.
Like Perdue, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) each highlighted their desire to get rid of the Affordable Care Act on their 2014 websites.
“Joni is staunchly opposed to the Obamacare law,” Ernst said back then, noting that she backed immediate repeal and replacement with unspecified “common sense, free-market alternatives that put patients first, and health care decisions back in the hands of each of us rather than Washington bureaucrats.”
Her website today promises merely to identify “solutions for affordable, quality health care for Iowans.”
Graham bragged in 2014 that he had opposed Obamacare “from Day One” and “has repeatedly voted to get rid of it. Whether it is Repeal and Replace, Defund, Opt-Out or Delay, he has consistently opposed this massive new entitlement.”
That section is no longer linked from his homepage, which makes no mention of healthcare and touts his “long history of relentlessly pursuing solutions over partisan politics.”
Capito’s 2014 site even included a special page for visitors to share their traumatic “Obamacare stories.”
“If you support repealing and replacing Obamacare with healthcare reforms that will actually work, or have your own story about how Obamacare has affected you and your family, we want to hear from you,” the site urged.
Today, she notes her work on juvenile cancer, pregnancy and childbirth fatalities, Alzheimer’s, “and investing in research to explore innovative treatments and cures for diseases,” but says nothing about “repeal and replace.”
Then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (who is now seeking his old seat against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones), then-Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (who was appointed to fill the late John McCain’s senate seat days after losing a 2018 senate race), Montana Sen. Steve Daines, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn also had overt anti-Obamacare language on their 2014 pages. Their current sites do not yet appear to mention Obamacare or any political issues.
GOP members notably shifted their focus following a failed attempt in 2017 to roll back the health care law. House Republicans passed a bill that year that would have repealed Obamacare and increased the number of uninsured Americans by tens of millions. It failed by one vote in the Republican controlled Senate.
In the wake of that vote, Republicans began circling around a spate of other topics. In the 2018 midterms, an array of vulnerable House Republicans also removed any trace of their Obamacare opposition from their campaign websites, choosing instead to promote their stances on subjects like immigration and their votes to pass the deficit busting GOP tax bill. Many still lost their seats in the blue wave that handed control of the chamber to the Democrats.
As Americans have seen Obamacare implemented and considered Donald Trump’s unpopular alternative, approval for the 2010 law has significantly increased over time.
Still, the Trump administration and Republican state attorneys general are seeking to get the entire law struck down in federal courts. Trump said earlier this month that if the challenge prevails and the GOP regains the House this November, “your healthcare, that I have now brought to the best place in many years, will become the best ever, by far.”
Thursday’s Kaiser poll showed just 35 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the Affordable Care Act, versus 54 percent disapproval.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.