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John Kasich just broke from his party on Obamacare. Or did he?

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (Tony Dejak/Associated Press)
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This post has been updated.

"The opposition to [Obamacare] was really either political or ideological," Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) told the Associated Press earlier this month. "I don't think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people's lives." He also summarily dismissed the idea that a Republican-controlled Senate would repeal the program. "That's not gonna happen."

Update: In a tweet on Monday evening, Kasich stepped back from those comments.

To say that the original formulation puts Kasich at odds with much of the rest of his party is an understatement. The comments are particularly different in tone and content than Republican discussions of the Affordable Care Act a year ago. Then, in the wake of the government shutdown and with the Healthcare.gov website still balky, the GOP anti-Obamacare fervor was near its peak. The tacit belief by Democrats (and the president) that the policy would prove to be a political asset as people got used to having low-cost healthcare coverage seemed like pie-in-the-sky optimism. Twelve months later, Kasich -- who is leading in his bid for reelection in a swing state by a wide margin -- seems to suggest that things have changed.

At least for governors, that is. Ohio added the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid to low-income residents one year ago this Tuesday, at the height of the Republican pushback, after Kasich handed off the decision to a bipartisan committee. Once Kasich was able to sidestep broader opposition from members of his party, the state joined only a handful of others with Republican executives to approve the expansion: Arizona, Indiana, and New Jersey among them. (On the not-yet-official 2016 campaign trail, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called Obamacare a "failure on a whole number of levels", but added that he was "proud" to have expanded Medicaid -- at least temporarily.) In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) moved to expand Medicaid coverage this August, perhaps hoping that it would boost his own, stumbling reelection. Not every Republican governor is embracing the ACA or its Medicaid expansion, but those in less-brightly-red states see some utility. (States with GOP governors that expanded Medicaid went for Obama by three points on average in 2012. Those that haven't expanded it went for Mitt Romney by 15.) As of May, 184,000 Ohioans had coverage under the expansion -- already halfway to the expected total as of next June.

It's impossible not to wonder if more Republicans will echo Kasich's revised sentiment over the long term. Kasich has been rumored to be a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, as explored in this broader profile by the Post's Dan Balz. Kasich offered Balz his rationale for the expansion, which derived from his faith: "You’ve got to help people that are downtrodden and poor, and I just think that that’s part of our culture. You’ve got to help people that can’t help themselves." That's a framework that could be advantageous for a national politician -- particularly a Republican -- if attitudes about the benefits of Obamacare continue to shift toward the positive.

For now, though, Kasich is still very much in the minority. Depending on which quote you adhere to.

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