President Donald Trump shifted focus to the issue of health care this week, all but guaranteeing that Healthcare will be a central issue in the upcoming 2020 election season. In a legal brief filed this week, the Trump Justice Department argued to a federal court that the entire Affordable Care Act should be found unconstitutional.
The Trump administration wants the federal courts to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, an escalation of its legal assault against the health care law. The President has renewed the attack on the law in order to satisfy his base within the Republican Party.
According to the Urban Institute, if the entire law were eliminated, as the Trump administration is now advocating for, nearly 20 million fewer Americans would have health insurance.
On Tuesday, after the Mueller report appeared to clear Trump of collusion with Russia the previous weekend, he met with Senators to celebrate shift gears to healthcare issues, saying, “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch!”
Inside the meeting, he urged Republicans to figure out a way to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health care law and replace it with a GOP version, a major Trump goal that has eluded the party during the first years of his presidency.
"I was a little surprised he came out of the chute in health care," said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., after the meeting "He wants us to try again."
"He's in a very good mood. He's in a good form," said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. "He's always high energy. He had a little extra today."
Experts weigh in:
The Democrats have used this as an opening to attack the President on health care policy. But experts say that won’t be enough to defeat the president in 2020.
“For right now, I think it was enough to run not only on the idea the GOP wanted to take away people’s health care, along with healthy dose of healthy anti-Trump rhetoric. That was enough to get us over the goal line,” said James Manley, a Democratic strategist. “But that won’t suffice in 2020.”
“Democrats are going to have to coalesce around a broader message,” he said, adding, “It has to include a unified pledge to try and improve the economy for middle-class voters, and, yes, it will have to have a large splash of anti-Trump rhetoric.”
Marc Hetherington, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, had this warning for Democrats, “It is hard to tell whether Democrats have found the right message for 2020 yet. The 2018 election was dominated by Donald Trump, specifically, and his signature issue — immigration,” Hetherington said.
“It was striking to me that Democrats really didn’t engage Trump on immigration no matter how outlandish the claims he made were. It was more important to them to focus on anything else, regardless of how fast and loose Trump was with the facts.”
Michael Steel, a former adviser to GOP Speaker John A. Boehner and Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid, said, “we're a long way from knowing whether Washington Democrats have found a winning message for 2020.”
“Running against congressional Republicans is very different from running against Trump,” he said. “And, with a cast of thousands joining the Democratic field, it’s going to be quite a while before they turn from internecine battles to messaging for the general election.”
“What Democrats need to do to be successful is focus on old-style New Deal issues,” Hetherington said. “If the 2020 election turns on identity as was the case in 2016, that is not good news for Democrats.”