The White House’s decision to extend the ability of consumers to keep their healthcare plan even though it may not meet new standards is another clear signal that Democrats know they will face significant ObamaCare blowback at the ballot box this year.

The move, first reported by The Hill’s Elise Viebeck on Monday and officially announced by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, spares Democrats from more perilous stories of widespread cancellations just before the November midterms. For Republicans, the campaign ads with fresh faces and new stories would have written themselves, leaving Democrats struggling with an immediate response before voters headed to the polls.

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And while the change gives Democrats a temporary political fix, it won’t stop Republicans from hammering home the negatives with the law and holding votes on more fixes.

Democrats’ solution seems to be to go out of their way to show they’re working to make fixes to the law.

Another vote to delay tax penalties for not buying insurance this year got the backing of 27 Democratic members, even though it’s DOA at the White House.

The Democratic defectors on the delayed penalty vote included mostly vulnerable members. But there were even a handful who represent safe Democratic districts, like Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard2020 candidates keep fitness on track while on the trail Biden leads in new national poll, Warren close behind in second place Gabbard drives coverage in push to qualify for October debate MORE (Hawaii) and Filemon Vela (Texas), who voted "yes."

And the White House, per The Hill’s Jonathan Easley, even took the unusual step of releasing a list of vulnerable members they consulted before making the Wednesday delay.

Republicans will eventually need to come the reality that the law won’t be repealed — and many have — but votes on fixes like the one today will put Democrats on record. But for Democrats, the law isn’t as easy a political fix as delaying a major part of the law past Election Day.

 

TOMORROW’S AGENDA TODAY

The three-day annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) begins Thursday, with activists gathering at the Gaylord National Resort just outside D.C. Check out The Hill’s Ballot Box for our live coverage. Here’s a rundown of the top speakers to on tap for tomorrow:

9 a.m.: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Prospects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Ted Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report MORE (R-Texas)

9:15 a.m.: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

9:25 a.m.: Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE (R-Wis.)

9:40 a.m.: Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTo boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick The Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian MORE (R-S.C.)

10:25 a.m.: Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton

11 a.m.: Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

12 p.m.: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

12:15 p.m.: Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Fla.)

12:30 p.m.: Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill Antitrust enforcers in turf war over Big Tech Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan MORE (R-Utah)

2:30 p.m.: NRA’s Wayne LaPierre

2:45 p.m.: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE

 

ACROSS THE MAP

NO RESTING ON YOUR LAURELS: At a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in Virginia on Tuesday night, President Obama warned Democratic donors that party voters tend to get "sleepy" during midterm elections.

"We’re good at Senate and House elections during presidential years — it’s something about midterms," he said. "I don’t know what it is about us. We get a little sleepy, we get a little distracted. We don’t turn out to vote. We don’t fund campaigns as passionately. That has to change and has got to change right here, because too much is at stake for us to let this opportunity slip by."

DNC TAPS KERRY ALUM: The Democratic National Committee named Raul Alvillar, a veteran of the Obama White House and John KerryJohn Forbes KerryLet's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy The Memo: Democrats struggle to find the strongest swing-state candidate 2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster MORE’s 2004 campaign, as the committee’s new national political director.

Alvillar previously worked as a senior adviser to Secretary Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanHouse Dems call on OMB to analyze Senate budget plan Overnight Finance: Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | New rules for prepaid cards | Justices dig into insider trading law GOP reps warn Obama against quickly finalizing tax rules MORE in the Office of Public Engagement and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and was an associate director in the office of public engagement at the White House. He also served as deputy national political director on Kerry’s Keeping America’s Promise PAC and as political director for his 2004 campaign.

GOP GROUPS EAT THEIR OWN: One in five dollars spent by all super-PACs, nonprofit groups and the like on election advocacy came from identifiably conservative groups attacking Republican congressional candidates, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign disclosures covering Jan. 1 to Feb. 28. Liberal political groups, in contrast, didn't spent a dime roughing up Democrats during this time, focusing their efforts exclusively on promoting Democrats or bashing Republicans.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

AZ-09 (SINEMA): The National Republican Congressional Committee launched its first attack ad against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), hitting her for her work as a state legislator helping to shape the law.

The attack comes as Sinema is considering a switch to run in the open 7th District, a much easier race for her. If Republicans can drive up her negatives in the 9th District by hammering her with attacks, she might be more inclined to switch races, leaving the 9th District without a clear Democratic contender and delivering Republicans a much easier race.

NRCC SLAMS DEMS FOR ‘PLEADING THE FIFTH’: The National Republican Congressional Committee sought to tie vulnerable Democrats to former IRS director Lois Lerner’s decision to plead the fifth during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

Ron BarberRonald (Ron) Sylvester BarberKavanaugh nomination a make or break moment to repeal Citizens United Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Principles and actions mean more than Jeff Flake’s words MORE continues to ‘plead the Fifth’ on Obama’s IRS scandal and has failed to protect the political beliefs of Arizonans,” said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek in the release hitting Barber (D-Ariz.). “The IRS is already a deeply mistrusted government agency, yet Ron Barber has remained silent and refused to hold the IRS accountable.”

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

OBAMA NOMINEE AN ISSUE FOR DEMS: Republicans moved to make Debo Adegbile, the controversial presidential nominee who was rejected in the Senate on Wednesday as a handful of Democrats broke ranks and voted against him, an issue for vulnerable Democrats.

The Republican National Committee slammed Democratic Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (Alaska), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganTillis trails Democratic challenger by 7 points in North Carolina poll North Carolina businessman will challenge Tillis in GOP primary Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 MORE (N.C.) for their votes in favor of Adegbile, whom the RNC described as “a convicted cop-killer’s most ardent defender.”

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, an outside group backing Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE’s (R-Ky.) reelection fight, hit his expected Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, for being “unforgivably silent” on the nominee. And Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the GOP front-runner for Senate in Louisiana, knocked Landrieu for voting for the nomination. “We know Senator Landrieu votes with President Obama 97 percent of the time. We didn't know that even applies when it means voting for a nominee who supported a convicted and unrepentant cop-killer,” he said.

IOWA (OPEN): Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is fundraising for Joni Ernst in a crowded Republican primary in Iowa. “As a mother, soldier and proven conservative, Joni has the kind of experience, skill set and discipline it will take to not only win this important seat, but to also take Iowa values to help turn around the mess in Washington,” Romney said in a fundraising pitch for the candidate.

TEXAS (CORNYN): Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) finally weighed in on the Texas Republican Senate primary — after it ended. The Tea Party favorite endorsed Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats press for action on election security On The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms MORE (R-Texas) in a Facebook post that praised him as “a friend, and a good man,” who’s “earned considerable respect in the Senate.” Cornyn easily defeated a lackluster primary challenge from Rep. Steve StockmanStephen (Steve) Ernest StockmanFormer aide sentenced for helping ex-congressman in fraud scheme Former congressman sentenced to 10 years in prison for campaign finance scheme Rising expectations could change North Korea forever MORE (R-Texas) Tuesday night, and Cruz had notably chosen to stay out of the primary while it was in contention.

VIRGINIA (WARNER): A new poll from Roanoke College puts Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCalifornia Law to rebuild middle class shows need for congressional action Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Top Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data MORE (D-Va.) comfortably ahead of his expected GOP opponent, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, with 56 percent support to Gillespie’s 29 percent support. That’s similar to what Roanoke found in January, when Warner polled ahead of Gillespie by 29 points.

MISSISSIPPI (COCHRAN): Two former Mississippi Democratic congressmen are eyeing returns to Congress, but they’re taking divergent paths to exploit divisions within the GOP to mount comebacks. The Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe looked at why former Rep. Travis Childers, running for Senate, and former Rep. Gene Taylor, running as a Republican for his old seat, see now as their best moment to return to Washington.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (BROWN): Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) invited the stars of anti-ObamaCare attack ads from the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity to a New Hampshire Republican dinner with him this month, sparking renewed speculation over his potential run for Senate in the state against Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenLewandowski launches campaign-style website during Capitol Hill hearing Democrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (D).

 

2016 WATCH

IS BROWNBACK BACK? Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is rarely discussed as a potential presidential contender, but he isn’t ruling it out. “I’m fully occupied and very happy with what I’m doing. I’m up for re-election. I’m a candidate for governor of Kansas,” he said, when asked by Yahoo News about his prospects. The conservative governor will first have to win his reelection fight, however, which is far from a safe bet.

RYAN TO IOWA: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will headline the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner next month, fueling speculation the Wisconsin Republican might be gearing up for a 2016 presidential bid. It’s not Ryan’s first visit to an early primary state this year — he dropped into New Hampshire earlier this year to headline a fundraiser for former Rep. Frank Guinta, who’s seeking his old seat in a rematch.

 

JUST FOR FUN

Kinky Friedman is back in Texas