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Trump hands Biden new campaign fuel with threats to repeal Affordable Care Act

By Jake Beardslee · November 30, 2023

In brief…

  • Trump revived threats to repeal Affordable Care Act, allowing Biden campaign to highlight popular ACA provisions
  • Campaign made healthcare focus for week with ads, surrogates warning of threat from Trump
  • Some Republican strategists say revisiting repeal efforts has no political upside
  • ACA now has widespread support, making replay of repeal fight a potential positive for Democrats
  • Biden team aims to motivate base, gain advantage in swing states around healthcare issues
Trump's threat to repeal the increasingly well-liked Affordable Care Act allowed the Biden campaign to make healthcare protections a key focus in trying to motivate supporters and gain an edge in critical swing states.  U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo/Wikimedia

President Biden’s campaign received a boost this week from former President Trump’s repeated threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as ObamaCare. Trump potentially handed Democrats a campaign boost by reviving his pledge to replace the 13-year-old law if elected in 2024. He posted on his Truth Social platform that he was “seriously looking at alternatives” to the ACA after failing to repeal it during his term.

The Biden campaign “quickly made the decision to ‘juice it out as much as we possibly can,’” a campaign source told The Hill. They went highlighted the most popular ACA protections to remind voters what would be endangered if the law changed. Over three days, they focused on preexisting conditions, coverage for young adults, and impacts on communities of color. The effort coincided with TV ads in swing states showcasing Biden’s ACA achievements.

The focus came as Biden has suffered months of low approval ratings, including some polls showing him behind Trump. Shoring up support in battleground states is crucial. “Trump certainly gave us sufficient time to plan and make this a weeklong endeavor,” the source said. A Biden aide told The Hill, “Him saying he wants to repeal ObamaCare is another thing we’re all over right now.”

Some Republican strategists warned candidates against revisiting repeal efforts. Dean Rosen, a former Senate GOP health aide, said, “History has not been kind to politicians who have tried to radically remake the health system.” But Trump doubled down, proclaiming he would replace the ACA with something “much better.”

On the trail in Colorado, Biden highlighted Trump’s comments: “He wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. If Trump gets his way — it’s all gone.” The campaign enlisted surrogates like Nancy Pelosi to portray Trump as jeopardizing health care. Meanwhile, GOP attempts to repeal the ACA in 2017 foundered largely over lack of agreement on an alternative.

With the ACA now more popular than in 2017, health strategist Joel White said, “I don’t think the message is, ‘We ought to go repeal ObamaCare.’” Political observers agreed relitigating repeal is a net positive for Democrats in motivating supporters.