Campaign 2010

Feb 26, 2014

MEMO: ACA Repeal Weighing Down Republicans in 2014

TO:      Interested Parties

FR:      DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward

RE:      ACA Repeal Weighing Down Republicans in 2014

DT:      February 26, 2014

Time and again, national Republicans have predicted that the 2014 elections will mean they gain significant seats because of their position on the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately for Republicans running in 2014, their fixation on repealing the ACA comes at their own peril, as the political landscape around the Affordable Care Act has shifted in Democrats’ favor.

Democrats are now on offense over the Affordable Care Act, gaining the political high ground as benefits kick in and provide the ammunition to put Republicans on their heels over the costs of repeal.

Americans are rejecting Republicans’ repeal agenda – both nationally and in swing districts, where voters want to see the Affordable Care Act fixed and improved, not repealed. This is the long-held position of Democrats, while Republicans have a history of nearly 50 votes to dismantle the law. Americans understand that Republicans’ repeal would go back to the days when insurance companies could do whatever they wanted to raise rates, deny care and drop coverage.

Democrats will make this election about whose side you’re on and Republicans’ relentless focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act plays perfectly into that narrative – they’re on the side of insurance companies at the expense of middle class families and seniors.

Democratic ACA Offense

Democrats have launched what the New York Times calls “an aggressive new strategy” to address the problems with the law, suggest fixes and improvements and highlight the costs of Republicans’ repeal.

“A memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee distributed to candidates and consultants suggested possible lines of attack, such as accusing a Republican who voted to repeal the health law of wanting “to go back to the days when insurance companies could charge women more than men for the same coverage, and treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.

“The Democrats say they must try to blend criticism and optimism when talking about the law. ‘You have to acknowledge there were problems,’ said Representative Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ‘You can’t sugarcoat it. If you sugarcoat it, you lose all credibility. […] Once you acknowledge it, you have tell voters that you want to fix it and improve it — but not repeal it — and remind them specifically of how a Republican repeal will hurt them.’”

As Politico recently reported, Democrats’ strategy is to point out the myriad ways that Republicans’ repeal would hurt Americans, from raising prescription drug prices to giving insurance companies free rein over care.

Republicans’ Repeal Unpopular

The polling is consistent—and has been for months. Americans want to improve the Affordable Care Act and fix its problems, not repeal it and go back to the days when insurance companies had free rein to deny care, drop coverage and discriminate against women and people with preexisting conditions.

When it comes to ACA and 2014, Charlie Cook recently wrote:

“[Voters] want it fixed, not thrown out, nor do they want to go back to square one. The smart Republicans should be arguing for fixing the flawed law; the smart Democrats should admit its imperfections and seek to improve its shortcomings.”

Over the past several months, independent polls have confirmed this fact over and over again:

  • 55 percent want to “keep and improve” ACA, while only 38 percent want to repeal it [Kaiser Family Foundation, 1/30/14]
  • 62 percent want to improve the law or keep it as-is, vs. only 34 who want it repealed [CBS, 1/23/14]
  • 54 percent say it is a priority to “fix and keep” the Affordable Care Act [NBC/WSJ, 1/28/14]
  • Just 28 percent want to “totally eliminate” the ACA. 67 percent want “minor modifications to improve it” or a major overhaul [NBC/WSJ, 12/4-8/13]
  • Only 32 percent of Americans want to repeal ACA, while 57 percent want to change it or implement as-is [Gallup, 12/3-4/13]
  • Just 38 percent want repeal, while 58 percent either want to wait and see before changes are made, or want more funding to implement the law successfully [National Journal poll, 11/14-17/13]
  • Even during height of website fiasco, with Obama approval at lowest level ever, most people still did not support repeal. 55 percent wanted to keep or change law, only 43 percent wanted total repeal [CBS, 11/15-18/13]

Republicans’ Fake ACA Horror Stories

In fact, Republicans are so desperate about their unpopular repeal position that they are misleading voters about the Affordable Care Act – and now there is a laundry list of fake horror stories that Republicans have peddled nationally and in their districts.

The Los Angeles Times took a closer look at the lengthy list of falsehoods:

“Boonstra’s case is just the latest of a very long line of deflatable horror stories. We’ve debunked a passel of them here, from Florida resident Diane Barrette, who didn’t realize she’d been empowered by the ACA to move from a costly junk insurance plan to a cheaper real insurance plan; to Los Angeles real estate agent Deborah Cavallaro, whose “unaffordable” premiums turned out to be eminently affordable; to San Diego business owner Edie Sundby, whose cancer coverage was safeguarded by Obamacare after her insurer bailed out on her for financial reasons; to “Bette,” the supposed victim trotted out by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers  (R-Wash.) in her response to the State of the Union message last month, and who turned out to be an ACA “victim” because she couldn't be bothered actually to investigate her options for affordable care on the Washington state enrollment website.

“And there are many more, including the extremely dubious personal narratives of House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Tom Coburn.”  

Republicans Can’t Run From Repeal

Meanwhile, Republicans are trapped in an unpopular message framework, beholden to their Tea Party base’s repeal litmus test and unable to escape their record of relentless repeal-only votes. 

“Republicans have focused far more on “repeal” than “replace,” and in some primaries GOP candidates who have even hinted that some aspects of Obamacare are good or need to be saved have been blasted by those further to the right. In general, the GOP line has been that Obamacare must be repealed in full and that any approach to replacement needs to start with a blank slate.” [Politico, 2/17/14]

“Republicans have promised to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, but the GOP House has staged votes only on repeal, in part to avoid the sort of scrutiny that inevitably comes with specific proposals. Some Republicans say that needs to change. […] Some Republicans are now worried that a GOP proposal to begin taxing health-care benefits offered through employers—which would affect some 160 million Americans—would cause market disruptions far more severe and expose the party to its own political peril.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/10/13]

As Democrats stay on offense and remind voters that Republicans would send Americans back to a broken system that led hardworking families into bankruptcy while lining the pockets of insurance companies, House Republicans will find their repeal position is a loser in 2014.