GOP voters may not care that much about scrapping ObamaCare after all

Mitch McConnell may not pay a political price for the collapse of his health-care bill
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insists he will hold (and probably lose) a vote on repealing without replacing the Affordable Care Act, the idea presumably being that after seven years of promising to scrap ObamaCare, Republican senators will be pressured to follow through.

President Trump has moved on to blaming Democrats and vowing to let ObamaCare fail, but "there is no way to spin to those who were promised that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed and replaced once Republicans held full power in Washington that what has happened is the fault of forces outside the party," says Dan Balz at The Washington Post. "It is as though Republicans unknowingly set a trap and then walked into it without having prepared escape routes." He argues that Republican voters will punish the party in 2018:

The failed promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare surely will affect the mood and enthusiasm of the Republican base heading toward 2018. When the Gallup organization asked Americans about the future of the Affordable Care Act recently, 30 percent overall said they favored "repeal and replace," but 70 percent of Republicans supported that option. GOP lawmakers will have left them empty-handed, perhaps disillusioned. [Washington Post]

That's certainly the "unexamined conventional wisdom," says the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman at Axios, but "when you look at the polling, the idea that the base will rise up and punish Republicans if they don't repeal the ACA appears to be exaggerated, and possibly even a political fiction." Altman points to KFF polls showing that only 7 percent of Trump voters and 5 percent of Republican voters listed health care as their top concern.

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Republicans don't like ObamaCare, but November 2018 is a long way away and they have bigger fish to fry, Altman says. "The one thing most likely to keep the ACA on the agenda now would be an effort by the administration to undermine it, and it's far from clear who benefits and loses politically from that." In fact, former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) tells The Washington Post, "Republicans might have gotten a break by not seeing an unpopular law go into effect. Sometimes, having no law is better than having one that people perceive as bad law."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.