Polls are a funny thing. Look no further than the huge swings in economic confidence after Trump’s election—substantial numbers of Republicans became significantly more confident about the state of the economy, while Democrats became significantly more pessimistic, even though nothing had changed.
Something similar is happening right now with Obamacare. For the last five years, Republicans have railed against the health care law, and voted to repeal it over and over again. With Trump’s election, they’ve finally caught the car—they have the votes to repeal it in Congress and a willing pen waiting for them in the Oval Office. But repealing Obamacare would mean taking health insurance away from 20 million Americans. That is, to put it lightly, a humanitarian problem, but for Republicans it’s also a public relations nightmare. And they know it.
Trump himself has suggested that he wants to keep Obamacare’s most popular provisions—even though the law itself wouldn’t work if stripped of less popular ones, like the mandate. Some Republicans—particularly those who represent thousands of people who rely on Obamacare—are starting to get cold feet. West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito told Talking Points Memo, “I’m from a state that has an expanded Medicaid population that I am very concerned about. ... I don’t want to throw them off into the cold. ... It’s too many people. That’s over 200,000 people in my state. So we need a transition. I think we’ll repeal and then we’ll work during the transition period for the replacement vehicle.”
Voters seem to be changing their tune about Obamacare as well. A month ago 69 (nice) percent of Republicans supported a full repeal of Obamacare. Now only half do. That’s still a significant number, but a 20-point decrease is arguably more significant, given that repealing Obamacare was a Day One promise from Donald Trump. Right now, all of the signals—from Trump, from congressional Republicans, and from Republican voters—point to a longer and more complicated future for health care.