President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE is stepping up his efforts to protect Republicans from Democratic attacks that people with pre-existing conditions will be in danger of losing their health coverage under GOP control of Washington.
The Democratic attacks have been effective and put Republicans on defense following years in which a GOP Congress sought to repeal ObamaCare, which made protections for people with pre-existing conditions a part of U.S. law.
Trump’s first year in office was also focused on repealing ObamaCare, and his administration has supported a lawsuit that would overturn the health-care law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, preventing them from being denied coverage or charged more.
Yet on Wednesday, Trump was insisting it was the GOP that would protect pre-existing conditions, and Democrats who would not.
“Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
Trump offered a similar argument in a tweet last week, stating that “all Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them.”
At rallies, Trump has been offering a similar argument.
The statements are an effort to fend off a barrage of Democratic attacks in the campaign.
“Poll after poll shows that voters tend to trust a candidate with a 'D' next to their name rather than a candidate with an 'R' next to their name when it comes to the issue,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.
“They’re trying to get out in front of this to make sure that Democrats don’t effectively land it.”
Democrats pushed back sharply on Trump’s tweet on Wednesday, noting that his policy moves contradict his message.
“Good morning, America. This is a lie,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin meeting with Biden, Schumer in Delaware Progressives' optimism for large reforms dwindles Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE (N.Y.) tweeted in response to Trump.
“Mr. President, 4 words for you: Drop the lawsuit now,” Schumer added.
He also pointed to comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) last week. McConnell said Republicans would try again to repeal ObamaCare next year if they have the votes to do it.
“Trump is no longer just lying about health care,” tweeted Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson. “He's trying to deliberately scam the American people with lies and conspiracy theories to cover up what his party is really trying to do.”
Democrats also seized on new rules the Trump administration put forward just this week that made it easier for states to get waivers from ObamaCare regulations to encourage the use of short-term health insurance plans, which can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them more.
Tom Miller, a health-care expert at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said that there are possible alternative ways besides ObamaCare to cover people with pre-existing conditions, such as providing enough funding for high-risk pools.
But he said that the Republican failure to spell out those alternatives has left the party scrambling to say it supports ObamaCare’s protections.
“They're lurching in the opposite direction, saying, ‘I didn’t mean that,’” Miller said. “It’s a phased retreat from where they used to be.”
The Democratic onslaught on the issue, epitomized by an ad from Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinAngus King: Losing climate provisions in reconciliation bill weakens Biden's hands in Glasgow Independent senator: 'Talking filibuster' or 'alternative' an option Rep. Khanna expresses frustration about Sinema MORE (D-W.Va.) showing himself shooting the anti-ObamaCare lawsuit with a gun, continued on Wednesday.
Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (D-N.D.) released a new ad showing a man holding his son with a pre-existing condition. “I don't understand why [Rep.] Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Lobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE voted against protections for people like Owen,” he says in the ad.
Cramer (R-N.D.), who some polls show has opened up a double-digit lead on Heitkamp, voted for the GOP repeal bill last year that allowed states to let insurers spike premiums for pre-existing conditions.
His campaign notes that people could only be charged more under the bill if they had a lapse in coverage for 63 days or more, which the campaign said was an incentive for people to maintain coverage.
Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyKelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema Texas not hiring private contractor for election audit MORE, the GOP candidate for Senate in Arizona, on Wednesday released the latest in a string of GOP ads that have run across the country and argued that Republicans really do support pre-existing condition protections.
The ad says McSally is “leading the fight” to “force insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.”
McSally voted for a GOP repeal bill last year, however, that would have allowed states to repeal ObamaCare’s protection against premium spikes on people with pre-existing conditions.
The same issue is coming up in House races as the GOP fights to keep its majority.
In a debate earlier this month, Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) defended his vote for the House repeal bill last year, noting insurers still would have been required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
His Democratic opponent, Elissa Slotkin, noted that under the bill, insurers could charge people with pre-existing conditions much higher premiums.
“He can quote his bill that says that you can't prohibit someone with a pre-existing condition from getting care. That doesn't mean they can afford it,” Slotkin said.
“This is why people can't stand politicians,” she said. “Because they say one thing and they do another.”
The Michigan race is considered a "toss-up" by the Cook Political Report.