GOP officials have hit on an ingenious way to deal with the problem that calling for repeal of Obamacare (the central organizing principle of the party for years now) is unpopular with swing voters: Repackage their repeal message in new language.

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.

We now have new state-by-state data illustrating in fresh detail just how politically difficult hewing to the “repeal” — er, “starting over” — message may prove for Republicans.

A new Department of Health and Human Services report documents the impact federal subsidies under Obamacare are having on the insurance costs of people receiving them. As the Post puts it, they “are paying an average of $82 a month in premiums for their coverage — about one-fourth the bill they would have faced without such financial help.

Buried in the report are data illustrating the impact subsidies are having on costs in state where the federal government built the exchange — and, by extension, how much those people’s premiums would rise if Obamacare were repealed. This is different from the Medicaid expansion. If the expansion were repealed, people would lose coverage. But if subsidies were repealed, people would not lose coverage, instead seeing premiums jump from loss of the tax credit.

It turns out the jump would be very high in states with contested Senate races where Republicans are running on “repeal”:

— In North Carolina, 357,584 people are paying an average monthly premium of $81 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $300.

— In Michigan, 272,539 people are paying an average monthly premium of $97 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $246.

— In New Hampshire, 40,262 people are paying an average monthly premium of $100 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $290.

— In Louisiana, 101,778 people are paying an average monthly premium of $83 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsides/cost increase of $314.

— In Iowa, 29,163 people are paying an average monthly premium of $108 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $243.

— In Alaska, 12,890 people are paying an average monthly premium of $94 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $413.

— In Georgia, 316,543 people are paying an average monthly premium of $54 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase in premiums of $287.

On an annual basis, these rises in prices would be in the thousands of dollars. Now, Dem candidates on difficult political turf might not press this too hard, because after all we’re talking about what some Republicans designate as the “takers” here, not your “real Americans.” But it’s another metric for showing the actual real-world consequences of repeal.

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.


Update: A clarifying note: The total numbers of enrollees in each state can be found here. The average monthly jump in premiums that would result in each state refers to the average stretched across all enrollees in each state, including those who don’t get subsidies. That means some people might not see any jump at all, while others might see a considerably higher jump than the average.


* HOUSE GOP CHOOSES LEADERS TODAY: With the right initially crowing about the ouster of Eric Cantor, it turns out that the best possible outcome for conservatives will be to add one southern conservative to the House GOP leadership team, to a slot below Cantor’s, while his is filled by a pro-amnesty Republican.

* A LOOK INSIDE THE LATEST BORDER CRISIS: The New York Times has a good piece of reporting documenting the conditions under which minors crossing the border illegally are being held by the U.S. government, before getting cycled into legal proceedings. The logistical challenges are many — from entertaining to feeding children to giving them adequate exercise. In political terms, as major news orgs increasingly focus on this crisis, it is ballooning up into a major national story for the Obama administration, at exactly the moment when he is making a difficult decision on how far to go in acting unilaterally to ease the pace of deportations.

* REPUBLICANS ASKING TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT BORDER CRISIS: Also in the above Times story, Republican lawmakers are increasingly demanding answers from the administration on what is and isn’t known about the flood of migrating minors:

Two Texas legislators — Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, and Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat — sent a letter to the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, demanding answers to a series of questions about how the children were being handled: Are they tracked upon their release from custody? Does anyone check to see if they have criminal records or gang affiliations? What measures does Homeland Security take to “help ensure that they do not end up in the hands of predators or sex offenders?”

Also, it’s not clear the administration knows how many of the kids who have entered the country — and been cycled into the legal system — have shown up for court dates and been removed from the country. If and when that number is established, it could mean another political headache.

* McCONNELL AND GRIMES COMPETE TO ATTACK THE ‘WAR ON COAL’: Glenn Kessler takes apart McConnell’s latest: His suggestion that EPA chief Gina McCarthy openly declared a “war on coal,” which is based on a tortured reading of an interview with Bill Mahr. It’s true, as Kessler notes, that Alison Grimes also criticized McCarthy’s quotes that way, and Grimes seems determined to use every occasion possible to put distance between herself and Obama.

I guess we’ll find out soon enough if defusing Republican attacks on the alleged Obama “war on coal” by participating in them will work.

 * THE CONTRADICTIONS OF THE WAR HAWKS: E.J. Dionne gets to the heart of the problem with the Iraq War hawks who are now criticizing Obama as weak for failing to act militarily against the chaos that’s gripping the country:

Whenever they are called out for how mistaken they were about Iraq in the first place, they piously lecture against “relitigating the past” and say we must instead look forward. At the same time, many of them feel perfectly free to trash the president in extreme and even vile terms…Obama sees these contradictions and says he won’t act rashly. You don’t have to agree with Obama’s every move to prefer his prudence to the utter certainty that “we will be greeted as liberators” and to a habit of underestimating the costs of military action.

* YET ANOTHER GOP ATTACK ON OBAMACARE FIZZLES: Jonathan Cohn has the latest: Republicans are convinced that new data they’ve collected on “risk corridors” will reflect badly on the law, but it actually ends up making the law look good.

* AND A REPLY TO THE GREEN LANTERNITES AND FALSE-EQUIVALENCERS: Norman Ornstein has a thoughtful reply to those who dismiss the importance of the notion that the GOP is far more to blame for Washington dysfunction than Democrats are:

Does it matter whether the polarization, and the deep dysfunction that follows from it, is equal or not, including to the average voter? The answer is a resounding yes. If bad behavior—using the nation’s full faith and credit as a hostage to political demands, shutting down the government, attempting to undermine policies that have been lawfully enacted, blocking nominees not on the basis of their qualifications but to nullify the policies they would pursue, using filibusters as weapons of mass obstruction—is to be discouraged or abandoned, those who engage in it have to be held accountable. Saying both sides are equally responsible, insisting on equivalence as the mantra of mainstream journalism, leaves the average voter at sea, unable to identify and vote against those perpetrating the problem.

Translation: If you are not clearly identifying the problem, and are obscuring (wittingly or not) the problem, you are part of the problem.

What else?


Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.