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(Steve Cannon / AP)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Rep. Ron DeSantis didn't face any backlash from his GOP supporters tonight for opposing Trumpcare. Instead, some audience members at a constituent event said the Freedom Caucus member helped avoid making Obamacare's problems worse. And he barely heard anything from Obamacare's supporters.

It was a lot tamer than the town hall events where other Republicans have gotten hammered over health care. The event was structured differently than a typical town hall — a moderator interviewed DeSantis, then the congressman took questions — and the setup minimized conflict. No signs were allowed, and many people showed up wearing DeSantis or Trump gear.

So DeSantis hardly had to engage on tough health care questions, except with one audience member with a disability who asked about pre-existing conditions. But from interviews outside the event, it was clear that this Freedom Caucus member was in a safe space. Many of the audience members were supporters, and although there were more liberal audience members who worried about Obamacare repeal, they barely made themselves heard.

DeSantis said the bill fell short of Obamacare repeal, was rushed through the House and would have likely raised costs. "I think it was a false start legislatively and I think if you're going to do it, slow down, do it right, and make sure the American people see the benefits of what you're doing," he told the audience.

His constituents on Trumpcare:

  • The Freedom Caucus got blamed for the failure of the bill, but "I think it's probably a better thing we don't turn out some bad sausage from the legislative machine," Vic Baker, communications chair for Volusia County Republicans, told me. "I think the ultimate product that will come out will be better because of [Freedom Caucus] opposition."
  • John Franks told me he didn't like the House health care bill. "It just transferred the expense, made things more expensive" for older people especially, and "it didn't really get rid of the defects in Obamacare." He's not upset with DeSantis or President Trump, but is underwhelmed by House leadership: "Paul Ryan's not my favorite guy. He's just Boehner-lite."

The other side: Many liberal or independent constituents expressed concern with repealing Obamacare. Several said family members or people they know depend on it for health coverage.

  • One audience member asked DeSantis about coverage for pre-existing conditions, saying "pre-Affordable Care Act, I could be denied for health insurance." DeSantis said he supports creating high risk pools where "the cost is dealt with in a separate fund rather than imposed through higher premiums" on the rest of the market.
  • Ellen Juliano, who has voted for both parties in the past, told me the House bill was a "big embarrassment" for Republicans after years of opposition to Obamacare. "They now have it all and they could not get it done...it shows they can't govern."

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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