Biden Campaign Aims to Weaponize Trump’s Threat to Obamacare

Very few events bring aides on President Biden’s re-election campaign more joy than when former President Donald J. Trump threatens to repeal popular Democratic policies.

So when Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, wrote on social media over the holiday weekend that he was “seriously looking at alternatives” to the 13-year-old Affordable Care Act, and that his fellow Republicans should “never give up” seeking its repeal, Mr. Biden’s campaign was happy to cede its programming decisions to Mr. Trump.

The president’s campaign altered its previous plans and instead will spend much of this week amplifying Mr. Trump’s threat, which was less a substantive policy proposal he had considered thoughtfully than it was a reaction to an editorial he had read in The Wall Street Journal.

Still, Mr. Biden’s aides intend to once again push to make Mr. Trump and his proposals the news. That strategy has become a key cog for the campaign, as Mr. Biden struggles with low approval ratings and increasingly focuses on foreign policy rather than his re-election bid. The campaign will air TV ads this week in Las Vegas and on national cable that contrast legislation passed by Mr. Biden that lowered prices on some prescription drugs with Mr. Trump’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, said Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director.

The president himself weighed in on Monday.

“My predecessor once again called for cuts that could rip away health insurance for tens of millions of Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “They just don’t give up.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign is in the process of arranging surrogates for the 2024 race — particularly in North Carolina, a presidential battleground that on Friday will become the 40th state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, is expected to be a key Biden surrogate promoting the health care law, which is widely known as Obamacare. Mr. Cooper signed his state’s Medicaid expansion bill in March after it was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature. Mr. Cooper and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the former House speaker, are scheduled to hold a press call for the Biden campaign on Tuesday.

“Donald Trump and G.O.P. extremists continue to try and rip away health care from millions of Americans without any serious alternative,” Mr. Cooper said on Monday. “If this country lets Donald Trump anywhere near decision making on health care, it would be a disaster for millions of people.”

Mr. Trump’s social media post surprised even his own aides, who have not developed a plan to alter the country’s health care law, according to a person close to him.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Republicans successfully ran against the health law in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, and Mr. Trump used his call for “a full repeal” as an applause line at campaign rallies in 2016, even though he also said “everybody’s got to be covered” by health insurance. But Republicans have not made a serious effort at rescinding the health care law since Senator John McCain of Arizona cast the deciding vote against G.O.P. legislation to repeal the law in July 2017.

In his social media post, Mr. Trump called that moment “a low point for the Republican Party.”

Mr. Tyler said, “We’ve got Donald Trump every single day providing the American people a window into how harmful he would be if he were able to regain power.” He added, “He is making this easy for us.”

The Biden campaign referred reporters to surveys illustrating the popularity of key elements of the health care law. Polling from KFF, the health care policy organization, found that as of May, 59 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of Obamacare, up from 43 percent at the end of President Barack Obama’s term in office. Democrats in 2018 won sweeping victories by campaigning against Republican efforts to upend the health care law.

Republicans remain broadly opposed to the law. KFF’s polling found that 73 percent held an unfavorable view of it in May.

The Biden administration said in January that 16.3 million Americans had enrolled in health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces during the open enrollment period, more than had ever signed up before.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services said that 4.6 million people had selected an Affordable Care Act plan in the first three weeks of the new open enrollment period, which began Nov. 1 and runs through January.

Ruth Igielnik and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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