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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

Burnout, money, concern drive Harris turnover

Vice President Kamala Harris and another potential 2024 presidential candidate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, appeared together Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Burnout, better opportunities and concern about being permanently branded a "Harris person" is driving some of the turnover in Vice President Kamala Harris's office, people familiar with the situation tell Axios.

Why it matters: Harris is not only a heartbeat from the presidency but, by virtue of her office, the presumed 2024 frontrunner if President Biden doesn't seek re-election. There's been an inordinate amount of disarray — and, now, turnover — throughout her tenure.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

4 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.