SOUTH BEND –– The focus of the political stethoscope, for so long examining the poor health of Democrats who voted in Congress for Obamacare, shifts now to measuring the prospects for political health of Republicans who voted for Trumpcare.
A health care plan, especially if complicated and pushed through without the public or even supporters in Congress really understanding the effects, can cause terrible health problems for those who vote for it. Democrats learned that. Will Republicans now learn the same lesson?
There is no doubt that Trumpcare will be a major issue in the 2018 elections. Polls show it is unpopular, just as Obamacare was when Republicans hammered it and Democrats to win congressional elections.
Now, ironically, just as Republicans control Congress and the presidency and can repeal it, provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, have become popular. A Gallup poll shows 53% approval of Obamacare, highest favorability ever, for the first time over 50%. So the GOP is having a difficult time figuring out how to dump it without severe health care and political health woes.
The monstrosity pushed through the House, without hearings or analysis of the cost and impact of what was put together with arm-twisting and political dealing, is no answer to the nation’s health concerns. It was passed quickly so that President Trump could claim a victory after unflattering reviews of his first 100 days. He gleefully celebrated passage with a Rose Garden rally. He called the thing “incredibly well crafted.”
House Republicans who voted to pass it know better. The last thing they want is for that version of Trumpcare to become law. If it did, they would lose control of the House in 2018.
The thing was denounced by doctors, hospitals, the AARP, health insurance providers and consumer groups. Critics said it would knock millions off health insurance, trim protections for folks with pre-existing conditions, hurt especially the poor, the middle class, the old and children and provide less care at more cost.
The thing, however, is not going to become law. It will be junked in the Senate. So either an improved Trumpcare will emerge, with actual cost and impact clarified and with some of the worst parts eliminated, which is what House Republicans hope and pray for, or nothing will be done. Nothing is a bad choice. Obamacare, even if becoming more popular, has serious flaws that need to be fixed. Health care will suffer if nothing is done.
Democrats quickly pounced on that House version. The Indiana Democratic Party immediately denounced two Hoosier Republicans, Congressmen Todd Rokita, 4th District, and Luke Messer, 6th District, for voting for “this horrifying bill” and warned that voters will remember what they did “the next time Congressmen Messer and Rokita are on the ballot.”
Other Republican House members from Indiana, including Jackie Walorski, 2nd District, also voted for Trumpcare. But they were not mentioned by name in the initial blasts. Strange? Not at all. Rokita and Messer are regarded as top contenders for the Republican nomination for the Senate for the race against Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent, in 2018.
Other Republican House members will be hit later if Democrats find viable challengers. But the most important targets for Democrats now are Messer and Rokita, because one likely will be in that high profile Senate race. Democrats want to tattoo on their foreheads their votes for Trumpcare.
Even if the Senate provides a much improved Trumpcare, Democrats still will hammer at that House version. And Republicans who voted for it will say, as Messer already has, that the House vote was only a needed first step. He described the bill as “a green flag, not a checkered flag,” marking the start of the race, not the finish.

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.