Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) speaks to reporters outside the Senate Chamber in Washington on March 1, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the co-sponsor of legislation that would replace most of the Affordable Care Act by allowing states to keep portions of it, hears “repeal” differently than some Republicans. In a scrum with reporters this week, Cassidy said that “Obamacare” was not really a synonym for the Affordable Care Act. For many voters, he said, “Obamacare” meant the parts of the law that Republicans would get rid of, and the Affordable Care Act was the provisions, such as continued coverage for people with preexisting conditions, that Republicans intended to keep.

“The Affordable Care Act is, if you will, a different animal, and Obamacare is a different subset of it,” Cassidy said. “Complete repeal is not what President Trump ran on. President Trump ran on everyone having coverage, caring for those with preexisting conditions without mandates, at a lower cost.”

While conservative outside groups and a conservative bloc of the GOP have demanded a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, some Republicans are already reframing “repeal” as a strategic attack, which would leave part of the law in place.

That’s a climb-down from what many Republicans campaigned on, a promise to rip out the Affordable Care Act “root and branch.” But it’s in sync with the muddled voter opinion about repeal. According to a February poll conducted by Morning Consult, 35 percent of voters still do not realize that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing.

“Most of us would prefer to have a full repeal, but the fact of the matter is you can’t have a full repeal when you’re using the reconciliation process,” said Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.). “That’s the exchange. If you want to have the 51-vote threshold, you can’t repeal everything.”