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April 25, 2014 3:12 PM Hey, Look! I’m As Mean As Any of You!

By Ed Kilgore

It’s hardly news when a southern Republican opposes the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, or seeks a position to the right of primary opponents. But Greg Sargent’s right: there’s something a bit over-the-top about NC GOP SEN candidate Thom Tillis boasting that he was personally responsible for blocking the Medicaid expansion in his state:

“Thom Tillis has a proven record of fighting against Obamacare. Tillis stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold. It’s not happening in North Carolina, and it’s because of Thom Tillis.”
The expected GOP Senate nominee for North Carolina is boasting, in effect, that he is the sole reason 500,000 people in the state he would represent will not get health coverage. This quote comes from a radio ad Tillis ran this week in the GOP Senate primary.
This will be another interesting test of how the actual GOP position on Obamacare — get rid of it and its benefits for millions — will play politically, as the law’s implementation has made it harder and harder for Republicans to campaign on abstract notions of “repeal and replace.” It’s slowly sinking in with the national press that Democrats are not uniformly running away from the law, and that the GOP repeal stance just might have problems of its own.
The backstory: Tillis, who has to avoid a primary runoff, has been under fire from conservative rivals as soft on Obamacare, because he suggested the law’s general goals might not be uniformly awful and even said Obamacare is a “great idea that can’t be paid for.” Senator Kay Hagan’s campaign then ran a radio ad tweaking Tillis over that quote, to hurt him among GOP primary voters and make a runoff more likely. Now Tillis is up with the radio spot reinforcing his anti-Obamacare cred.

Greg’s correct that Tillis is the front-runner in the race and the Republican Establishment favorite. The most recent poll of NC shows him very close to the 40% he’d need to avoid a runoff, which would probably be against fire-breather Tea Activist Greg Brannon. So I can see how he might be tempted to raid a few more Very Conservative voters by bragging he denied health insurance to a half million folks presumed to be composed largely of those people, few of whom are going to be voting in the primary on May 6.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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