Remember back in 2011 when Rep. Ann Wagner was running to be the Republican National Committee chair? Specifically when she tried to outman the men on the candidate list when it came to gun love?:
Republican National Committee chair candidate Ann Wagner blew away the competition when Grover Norquist asked each candidate at today’s debate how many guns they own.
“About 16,” replied Wagner, whose family actually just got a new gun case for Christmas.
Current RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Mario Cino don’t own any guys. Reince Priebus has five, and Saul Anuzis said he feels “very inadequate” owning just four.
Back in those days you had to feel for poor Ann who, as one of the few women with a stomach strong enough for our modern GOP, had to cope with all that angry, old, white testosterone. Especially since, when push came to shove, her 16 guns weren’t enough to prevail against Reince Pirebus’ teeensy, tiny five.
Recently, however, given the party’s need to attract women, and the few that the party has to hand, Wagner has seen her star ascending – to the extent that she has become one of the players involved in helping select a new GOP majority leader now that Eric Cantor has been tea-partied out of the Congress. Consequently, given Wagner’s status in the GOP’s effort at female outreach, our task over the next few weeks is to be alert for a possible change in her pronouncements on the topic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).
Why, you may ask? Wagner, after all has been running in tandem with the repeal-the-ACA crowd, and, true to her faux woman of the people stance, has regularly solicited ACA horror stories that she can pass along without real verification, but with an “I told you so” smirk instead. Why, you ask, should she change? Simply because there’s a big problem with this strategy. Most of the horror stories have proven to be bogus and all the signs are that the Affordable Care Act is succeeding. Consequently, as Greg Sargent observes, the GOP is scrambling to develop a new rhetorical tack:
Reuters reports GOP officials have conducted reams of research to retool their message, with an emphasis on appealing to women. The problem: Balancing the base’s demand for an undying commitment to obliterating the law with swing voters’ desire to keep the good things in it. Solution: Use the phrase “start over” instead of “repeal,” because “start over” supposedly resonates with women.
It’ll be interesting to see if this new direction takes with the members of the Missouri delegation, but especially with Wagner – precisely because she’s not only a woman, but a woman of the sort that the GOP establishment hopes can speak effectively to female swing voters. It’s going to be fun watching to see how emphatically Wagner adopts this line if at all. If she does, these are, according to Sargent, the points to watch for:
The new “start over” message will not paper over the basic problem Republicans face here, which is that they want the base to thrill at their anti-Obamacare zeal while also reassuring swing voters they can have the good stuff in the law without the bad. Indeed, as you watch this “new” message, keep an eye on whether GOP candidates actually do call for “starting over” in any meaningful or substantive sense. Instead, you’ll likely hear them claim they want to “start over” while mouthing support for the law’s goals of expanding affordable coverage and consumer protections, while refusing to take a stand on whether key aspects of it – such as the Medicaid expansion – should actually be done away with.
If Wagner and the other Missouri GOPers do decide that “start over” is the way to go, we need to make sure that they have a good story about how they are going to replace the benefits that the ACA has given to Missourians. A recent Department of Health and Human Services report tells us that the average insurance premium for Missourians getting insurance through the ACA exchanges is only $59. Without ACA subsidies, premiums for similar private market insurance would have cost on average $344; the ACA subsidized insurance is 85% cheaper.
If Wagner, specifically, starts talking about “starting over” we need to hold her feet to the fire and demand to know how what she has in mind would work better than the ACA. There are better systems out there, but I’m willing to bet that hardcore Republicans would never sign on to them. Instead, As Sargent noted in an earlier article about the effort of Republicans to maneuvre around the incipient success of Obamacare:
… surely these Republican evasions are also newsworthy. They go right to the heart of the GOP’s approach to the central policy debate of the Obama era, shedding light on Republicans’ widespread inability to mount an even remotely credible policy response to fundamental questions that debate raises about how, or whether, government should act to expand health care to the poor. And they cast doubt on the veracity of the Obamacare-is-a-disaster political narrative that is central to the highly consequential midterm elections now underway. All this should be part of the story.