Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

There were plenty of reasons to think the individual mandate was here to stay. It was a linchpin of Republicans' failed effort to defeat the Affordable Care Act in 2010. They couldn't persuade the Supreme Court to strike it down in 2012, or muster enough votes in that year's elections to do it themselves. They failed to repeal it once again in July. This July. Not even five months ago. And yet, here we are.

The bottom line: As important as the passage of Republicans' tax overhaul is for tax policy, and for President Trump's legislative agenda and Paul Ryan's legacy and everything else, this is at least as big a moment in the life of the ACA. After years upon years of dire warnings about what would happen to the ACA without an individual mandate, we're about to find out in a live experiment.

Yes, but: I asked some of the other people who have ridden out the entire individual-mandate saga whether they're as surprised as I am to see the coverage requirement actually about to vanish. They are mostly surprised Republicans haven't achieved more.

  • "I am in some ways surprised they didn't repeal the law," says former Rep. Henry Waxman, who helped write the House version of the ACA.
  • Conservative policy analyst Chris Jacobs sort of agrees with Waxman, though obviously by coming at it from the other side, noting Republicans' years of campaign promises to roll back the law's regulatory requirements.
  • "I know the [Mitt] Romney folks drafted a whole reconciliation bill in 2012," Jacobs says. "If this is all we get out of it? No."
  • "I don't think it's that big an accomplishment, because [the mandate] has always been unpopular," Jacobs says.

Go deeper

The cliffhanger could be ... Georgia

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1992, but Georgia's changing demographics may prove pivotal this year — not only to Trump v. Biden, but also to whether Democrats take control of the Senate.

Why it matters: If the fate of the Senate did hinge on Georgia, it might be January before we know the outcome. Meanwhile, voters' understanding of this power in the final days of the election could juice turnout enough to impact presidential results.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
6 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes. A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.