Donald Trump was eager to brag about his perceived accomplishments at the NRA's gathering last week and drew some applause when he turned his attention the Affordable Care Act. "[W]e got the individual mandate, the absolute worst part of Obamacare, eliminated," the president said. "Now we're going for the rest."
It was those last six words that stood out. Congressional Republicans, aware of the pitfalls for the GOP in the health care debate, have urged the White House to proceed with caution on the issue. Trump doesn't seem to care.
He should. The latest Monmouth University poll, released yesterday, found health care as Americans' top concern, far above issues such as taxes and immigration. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll pointed in a similar direction:
Trump's handling of health care appears to be a bigger liability in his reelection bid, with 38 percent of voters saying it is a mark against him, compared to 25 percent who say it's a reason to vote for him.Republicans are comparatively less enthused about Trump's handling of health care than they are about other issues, with less than half -- or 46 percent -- of GOP voters saying his management of the issue makes them more likely to vote for him.Among independents, Trump's handling of health care is a negative attribute by an 11-point margin (36 percent to 25 percent).
The more the president boasts about his plans to take down "the rest" of the Affordable Care Act, the more the Republican reminds the public about an issue on which he's very weak.
Complicating matters is the fact that Trump's latest boast doesn't appear to make a lot of sense. Look again at the quote from his NRA speech: "[W]e got the individual mandate, the absolute worst part of Obamacare, eliminated. Now we're going for the rest."
Who's "we"? It's certainly not congressional Republicans, who have no interest in relitigating the issue. It's also not the White House, which still doesn't have a plan, and has no plans to come up with one.
And yet, earlier this month, Trump spoke to the National Republican Congressional Committee -- whose members are in the minority in part because of health care -- and told his allies, "Republicans should not run away from health care. You can't do it. You're going to get clobbered. And I have an idea and I think it's great."
The idea, evidently, is to come up with a health care plan in 2021.
Soon after, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News, in reference to health care, "Oh, yes, we want to run on this."
If Democrats are lucky, Republicans will follow through on this.