Sep 24, 2018

GOP's midterm health care strategy: Rally the base

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

With the midterm elections fast approaching and Democrats riding a clear advantage on health care, many Republicans are nevertheless doubling down on largely unpopular ideas like repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting Medicare.

Between the lines: This strategy may seem counterintuitive on its face. However, it likely reveals that the party has all but abandoned independent voters this year and instead is focused on turning out its base.

The big picture: Republican leaders have recently become more public about the likelihood of trying again on ACA repeal, whereas a few months ago it was largely a private assumption among the party.

  • Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in Wisconsin that if the GOP candidate wins the Senate seat there, the effort will be revived, per The Hill. “We made an effort to fully repeal and replace ObamaCare and we'll continue, with Leah Vukmir in the Senate, we'll continue to go back to that," he said.
  • “We need to win this election and then get more seats next year" before trying again, GOP Whip Steve Scalise told the AP.

ACA repeal only resonates well with one group of voters: registered Republicans.

  • “It’s all about the base, because as far as I can tell, they’ve lost the independents, there’s no one left to woo," said conservative economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former campaign aide to John McCain.
  • "The Republicans face a very odd problem…when you ask actually registered voters what they want to do with the future of the ACA, no one wants to repeal and replace it except the Republicans, which the majority do," said Robert Blendon of Harvard's School of Public Health.
  • “If you are looking at the aggregate, you can't imagine why you’d even mention it. But if you’re trying to encourage your own voters…then they're trying to say that we would come back and try to do something," Blendon added.

It's not just the ACA: Larry Kudlow, President Trump's top economic advisor, recently said that the administration will probably look at entitlement cuts next year, per CNBC.

  • Some candidates, including vulnerable House members like Reps. John Faso, Peter Roskam and John Culberson, have recently discussed the need to rein in spending on entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
  • There's risk to this strategy as well. Although the bet is that the GOP base is concerned with deficits, "as soon as the other side switches to 'you're going to cut back Medicare and Social Security,' you're on the wrong side," Blendon said. "The highest turnout rates are among people above 60."
  • Like clockwork, the DNC blasted out an email criticizing Kudlow's comments, saying that he "admitted that Republicans will try to cut vital programs relied upon by millions of working families."

Go deeper

Trump threatens to "assume control" of Minneapolis over unrest

Flames from a nearby fire illuminate protesters standing on a barricade in front of the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis on Thursday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump threatened via Twitter early Friday to send the national guard to Minneapolis following three days of massive demonstrations and unrest in the city over George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody this week.

Details: "I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right," Trump tweeted after a police station was torched by some protesters.

16 mins ago - Technology

Twitter: Trump's Minnesota tweet violated rules on violence

Twitter said Friday morning that a tweet from President Trump in which he threatened shooting in response to civil unrest in Minneapolis violated the company's rules. The company said it was leaving the tweet up in the public interest.

Why it matters: The move exacerbates tensions between Twitter and Trump over the company's authority to label or limit his speech and, conversely, the president's authority to dictate rules for a private company.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Protests over George Floyd's death grip Minneapolis

Protesters cheer as the Third Police Precinct burns behind them on in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Cheering protesters set a Minneapolis police station on fire Thursday night in the third night of unrest following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the city, per AP.

The state of play: Minnesota's governor on Thursday activated the state's national guard following violent outbreaks throughout the week, as the nation waits to see if the officers involved will be charged with murder.