Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party, at the Iowa State Fair Oct. 31, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Photo by Steve Pope/Getty

Lindsey Graham ‘promises’ ACA repeal if Republicans win in 2020

Three weeks before last year’s midterm elections, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised a few eyebrows with some candid comments about his future legislative plans. Despite the Affordable Care Act’s growing popularity, the Republican leader told Reuters that his party would likely try to repeal “Obamacare” if given the chance.

It would, McConnell added referring to the midterm elections, “depend on what happens in a couple weeks.”

After Election Day had come and gone, it became obvious that Americans were not on board with the GOP leaders’ plan. As regular readers may recall, the day after the midterm elections, McConnell had no choice but to acknowledge reality and dismiss the idea of ACA repeal.

But as the political world looks ahead to the next election cycle, some Republicans are publicly confirming the fears of health-care advocates: if given a chance, GOP policymakers have every intention of trying again to tear down the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said this week that Republicans would push to repeal ObamaCare if they win back the House and President Trump is reelected in 2020.

“If we can get the House back and keep our majority in the Senate, and President Trump wins reelection, I can promise you not only are we going to repeal ObamaCare, we’re going to do it in a smart way where South Carolina will be the biggest winner,” Graham said in an interview with a South Carolina radio station.

“We’ve got to remind people that we’re not for Obamacare,” the South Carolinian said. In reference to his policy plans, the senator added, “This scares the hell out of the Democrats. This is what 2020 is about.”

I wonder which party is happier to hear Graham saying stuff like this in public.

It was of particular interest to hear the GOP senator – who’s up for re-election next year – say he and his party have “got to remind people” about their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. That’s not altogether true: in a Fox News poll released two weeks ago, most Americans said they like the ACA. The same poll found that reform law was more popular than Donald Trump and every congressional leader from both parties.

Graham, of course, may not care about public support for “Obamacare,” or what it did to Republicans’ standing the last time they tried to destroy it, but to assume it’s good politics to position the party against a popular law is probably unwise.

Indeed, the South Carolinian’s words are likely to be seized upon by Democrats, who are only too pleased to have a 2020 fight over health care. If “this is what 2020 is about,” Republicans are likely to have another rough cycle.

But let’s also not forget that Graham, whether he intended to or not, also helped shine a light on an underappreciated aspect of the election fight to come: the presidential race isn’t the only one that matters.