This story has been updated.
“Repeal and replace” has been a Republican mantra for nearly as long as Obamacare has been in existence. Yet one of the GOP’s rumored 2016 front-runners isn’t doing a good job of playing along.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to cruise to reelection this year and then seek the Republican nomination in 2016, recently told the Associated Press that repealing the Affordable Care is “not gonna happen.”
“The opposition to it was really either political or ideological,” he said. “I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.”
Kasich is one of a handful of Republican governors, including some other rumored presidential candidates, who have agreed to expand Medicaid in their states under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Some have paid a higher price than others: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, another possible 2016 contender, has been hard at work wooing major conservative groups like Americans For Prosperity, but he’s still taking substantial heat from the right for his own plan to expand Indiana’s Medicaid program.
Perhaps wary of the political cost, Kasich sought to clarify his comments Monday night, telling The Washington Post, “I don’t back Obamacare. I never have. I want it to be repealed.” He added that he believed Obamacare would be repealed “flat out” and replaced if Republicans win control of the House, Senate and presidency.
The Associated Press also updated its story later Monday night, noting that “Kasich called The Associated Press Monday night to clarify that he was speaking specifically about a repeal of Medicaid expansion and not of the entire Affordable Care Act – although opponents in Washington don’t usually draw such distinctions.”
Whether or not he was speaking specifically about the Medicaid expansion, Kasich’s remarks on Obamacare’s staying power and his admission that the law is making “real improvements in people’s lives” put him markedly at odds with both the Republican party and his fellow presidential hopefuls.
Kasich currently enjoys a 22-point lead over his Democratic challenger, according to the Real Clear Politics average of Ohio gubernatorial race polls.