Once in a great while, a politician will slip and accidentally tell the truth. Take Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), for example, who inadvertently praised the Affordable Care Act.
“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 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.”
You could almost hear Kasich’s national ambitions evaporating as the AP article made the rounds.
In context, it’s hard to tell whether the Ohio Republican was speaking about the Affordable Care Act overall or specifically the part of the law related to Medicaid expansion, which Kasich has long supported. In either case, for a prominent GOP policymaker – a former Fox News analyst, no less – to admit out loud that all or part of “Obamacare” is making “real improvements in people’s lives” is a striking development. Kasich’s assessment, which happens to be true, is a reminder that the right’s repeal crusade has already died with a whimper.
Of course, Kasich was forced to scramble last night, undoing the political damage done by his candor. The Ohio governor turned to Twitter to say, “As always, my position is that we need to repeal and replace,” but the damage was already done. Kasich has already made clear – in words and deeds – that he sees no future in repealing the entirety of the federal health care system. Indeed, was fairly explicit on this, telling the AP that the right-wing arguments don’t hold water “against real flesh and blood.”
Jonathan Cohn added a good point:
This is heresy on the political right, although it shouldn’t be. It’s easy to forget, but the basic idea of Obamacare – a system of competing private insurance plans, with subsidies to help lower income people pay them – used to have the support from many conservatives. Many of the law’s features, like a cap on the tax exemption for group health insurance, remain popular on the right. And while Republicans don’t typically like Medicaid, there’s a long history of Republican governors working with Washington to implement the program in ways that ultimately benefit their states.
The reason you don’t hear more praise like this from Republicans is largely political (it’s Obama’s law) and ideological (it involves some government intervention) – which, of course, was precisely Kasich’s point.
In fact, I’d add that Kasich, during his congressional tenure, introduced a health care reform plan of his own, and looking back at his 1994 blueprint, Kasichcare looks pretty similar to Obamacare.
In the short term, Kasich’s candor on health care probably won’t have much of an effect on his career – the incumbent governor has a big lead in the polls over his Democratic challenger, and with just two weeks remaining, it’ll take more than honest rhetoric about health care to shake up that race.
But in the long term, the Ohio Republican has committed a mortal Republican sin by giving away a secret the GOP tries to keep hidden: President Obama’s health care reform system is actually helping people, and its opponents on the right largely deserve to be ignored. Were Kasich to run for national office, this would be quite an albatross.
Steve Benin, MSNBC