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GOP presidential candidates abandon the ACA repeal push

In 2012 and 2016, Republican presidential candidates vowed to destroy the Affordable Care Act. In the 2024 cycle, everything is clearly ... different.


In 2012, there was a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates, each of whom railed against the Affordable Care Act as a national scourge they were eager to eliminate. Four years later, it happened again: A massive GOP field of White House hopefuls insisted that they’d “repeal and replace” the dreaded Obamacare if given the opportunity to serve.

In the 2024 election cycle, it’s fair to say that when it comes to health care policy, everything now is ... different. HuffPost picked up on my favorite part of the second Republican presidential primary debate.

An important thing happened when Fox News’ Dana Perino asked [former Vice President Mike Pence] whether Obamacare was “here to stay.” Instead of answering the question, Pence decided to respond to a previous question about mass shootings and gun violence. Perino followed up: “Does that mean Obamacare is here to stay?” He still didn’t answer the question.

It wasn’t just Pence. There were seven GOP candidates on the stage. None of the seven called for repealing the Affordable Care Act.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted overnight how “striking” it was to see Republican presidential hopefuls steer clear of the goal “after so many years of salivating at any chance to go after the dreaded Obamacare.”

Of course, it’s not just the party’s national candidates. Last year, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida unveiled a controversial policy agenda that seemed to touched on practically every issue under the sun — but it didn’t say a word about repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Soon after, Sen. Ron Johnson briefly suggested that he wanted to put ACA repeal back on the table. When Democrats pounced, the Wisconsin Republican scrambled to walk it back.

As the 2022 midterm elections drew closer and House GOP leaders unveiled their “Commitment to America” blueprint, that plan ignored the Affordable Care Act as well.

Around the same time, a variety of Republicans started editing their websites, erasing their previous criticisms of the ACA.

For those of us who’ve covered the political fight over the Affordable Care Act since its inception, this day seemed highly implausible. Before Barack Obama signed the reform package into law, Republicans condemned it as an economy-destroying attack on free enterprise and the American way of life. After the ACA became law, Republicans spent years not only denouncing the reforms, but also voting several dozen times to repeal it.

The idea that the GOP — from its presidential candidates to its congressional conferences — would simply wave the white flag and give up on attacking the reform law seemed like a fantasy.

And yet, here we are.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.