Ted Cruz has a plan to finish off Obamacare. It could also finish off GOP majorities in Washington if Democrats are able to shift the blame for failures in the nation’s health care system — again pitting Cruz’s own political interest against leaders in his party.
Once a reliable campaign issue that helped Republicans build majorities in the House and Senate, health care politics have changed drastically for both parties since the 2016 election.
Top Republican strategists say it’s no longer a winning message for their party — and a potential liability if they continue making changes that aren’t successful. Democrats, meanwhile, call it their most compelling argument for the 2018 election, thanks in part to changes Cruz pushed his party to pursue.
“I don’t think anybody who was paying attention to the repeal effort in 2017 concluded that Republicans got what they wanted out of that deal. It didn’t work,” said Josh Holmes, a GOP strategist who engineered health care politics for years as chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“What we’re left with in the country is Obamacare in some form or fashion … we have moved beyond it as an issue for the center of the electorate,” he added.
Cruz, who faces a well-funded challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke in November, sees the politics differently.
He’s working behind the scenes on Capitol Hill to rally colleagues around changes to the law in the coming months — something GOP Senate leaders have expressed zero interest in taking up.
Cruz is also encouraging a more drastic effort to gut the law through the court system.
That effort took on additional significance with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement in June — providing Democrats new political fuel as they head into the midterms.
“There are a lot of ideas right now on Obamacare that I think could get 50 votes if we could unite as a party,” Cruz told supporters in Waco this month. “The big question is: Is our leadership going to take up a vehicle [to allow it].”
Cruz made his name pushing his party out of its comfort zone to fight Obamacare in 2013. He then turned around and used the platform to fuel a strong bid for the GOP presidential nomination less than two years later.