Publication / DecodeDC/ Scripps
May 29, 2014
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Some Republicans shifting from ‘repealing’ to ‘fixing’ Obamacare

It’s a campaign promise that’s easier to keep

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s so slight that you might have to listen with one ear against the TV, but Republicans are tweaking their talking points. In terms of Obamacare, that seems to mean the word “repeal” is out and “fix” is in.

You might have missed a Cook Political Report story that came out late last week right before the long Memorial Day weekend, but it delves into the recent change in Republican Party language.

Studies show that Americans are split between wanting candidates who aim to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and those who want to fix it, and some Republicans are changing their strategy to focus on the latter, which is the easier promise.

The most obvious place to see the shift is in TV ads. In the Cook Political Report article, Elizabeth Wilner measures the change through state-level commercials funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — what she calls “one of the most prolific anti-‘Obamacare’ advertisers of the past four years. There Wilner sees more and more advertisements promising to fix Obamacare:

The US Chamber of Commerce hit the air on May 7 with four such ads. (The buy was widely reported; the messaging was not.) In MA-06, where voters know and like Obamacare as Romneycare, the Chamber ad goes: “[Richard] Tisei says, work in a bipartisan manner to fix healthcare the right way. Tisei’s plan? He wants to instill free-market solutions. End the job-killing tax on medical devices. And curb lawsuit abuse to bring down the cost of care. Fixing healthcare the right way…”

Of course, not every race is happening in Massachusetts. In perhaps more telling Kentucky, the Chamber’s ad supporting Rep. Andy Barr in KY-06 says, “On healthcare, Barr believes in putting people first, not government. That’s why he’s working to fix the Obamacare mess at every turn.”

An ad for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reads (in text), “McConnell is leading the fight to fix this Obamacare mess.”

And in NV-03, the Chamber’s ad for Rep. Joe Heck says, “To Dr. Heck, it’s about fixing healthcare and making sure people get the care they need.”

The change, according to Wilner, also will give Republicans a simpler message than the Democrats “who continue to grapple with how to support the ACA — or at least, counter Republican Attacks — in their ads.”

That’s because Republicans can point to specific things they would change in the ACA compared to the Democrat’s job, which is explaining to voters how the ACA will work for them in the future even if it’s hard to see that in the numbers that are out now.

For now, it’s “wait and see” if this wording change sticks in campaigning for the general elections.