Trump, GOP look to ‘Oba­macare’ re­port as come­back life­line

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Steve Peo­ples and Jonathan Lemire The As­so­ci­ated Press

DORAL, FLORIDA >> Sud­denly armed with fresh po­lit­i­cal am­mu­ni­tion, Don­ald Trump and anx­ious Repub­li­cans across the na­tion seized on spik­ing health care costs Tuesday in a fi­nal-days ef­fort to spark elec­tion mo­men­tum.

The Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, trekking across must-win Florida, in­sisted “Oba­macare is just blow­ing up” after the gov­ern­ment pro­jected sharp cost in­creases for Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health care law. Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton, fight­ing to block Trump in the same bat­tle­ground state, has vowed to pre­serve in­sur­ance for the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans cov­ered un­der the law, but her team de­scribed the cost surge as a “big con­cern.”

Trump closed out the day by cast­ing the gov­ern­ment’s pro­jec­tions about the health care law in per­sonal terms.

“It’s killing our busi­nesses. It’s killing our small busi­nesses. And it’s killing in­di­vid­u­als,” Trump told sup­port­ers at an evening rally in Tal­la­has­see, without pre­sent­ing ev­i­dence to back up his as­ser­tions.

While the health care law has pro­vided cov­er­age to mil­lions pre­vi­ously unin­sured, it has also in­creased costs and reg­u­la­tory bur­dens for busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly medium-sized to large com­pa­nies. But small busi­nesses are ex­empt from its re­quire­ment to cover full-time em­ploy­ees or face fines.

The re­newed em­pha­sis on health care gave bat­tered Repub­li­can House and Se­nate can­di­dates a brief respite from months of painful ques­tions about their pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, who has ques­tioned the in­tegrity of the U.S. elec­tion sys­tem while fac­ing per­sonal al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct. Trump has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

“My first day in of­fice I’m go­ing to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk get­ting rid of this dis­as­trous law,” a fiery Trump told thousands of vot­ers gath­ered at an air­port along the In­ter­state 4 cor­ri­dor.

Blessed with an un­ex­pected po­lit­i­cal gift, how­ever, it’s un­clear whether Trump will be able to cap­i­tal­ize.

“He could make this race for the last two weeks a ref­er­en­dum on Oba­macare. But of course he won’t do that,” said for­mer Ted Cruz strate­gist Chris Wil­son. “It’s just a mat­ter of him swat­ting at flies in­stead of having a co­her­ent and con­sis­tent mes­sage.”

In­deed, Trump has strug­gled to stay fo­cused on the tra­di­tional is­sues through­out his out­sider can­di­dacy. He opened Tuesday by pro­mot­ing one of his Florida golf re­sorts, high­light­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­sec­tion be­tween his busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. Trump is also sched­uled to at­tend Wed­nes­day’s open­ing of his new Washington ho­tel.

“We’re at Trump Na­tional Doral. And it’s one of the great places on earth,” Trump said dur­ing a visit to his golf club. He en­cour­aged his em­ploy­ees to praise him at the mi­cro­phone and said many of them are having “tremen­dous prob­lems with Oba­macare.”

The Doral gen­eral man­ager later clar­i­fied that 95 per­cent of the club’s em­ploy­ees are on com­pa­nypro­vided in­sur­ance.

The De­part­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices re­ported late Mon­day that pre­mi­ums will go up sharply next year un­der the fed­eral health care pro­gram, and many con­sumers will have just one choice for their in­surer. Be­fore fed­eral sub­si­dies, pre­mi­ums for a mi­dlevel bench­mark plan will in­crease an av­er­age of 25 per­cent across the 39 states served by the fed­er­ally run on­line mar­ket. Some states will see much big­ger jumps, oth­ers less.

Repub­li­cans have been fight­ing the pres­i­dent’s health care law since 2010 with lit­tle po­lit­i­cal suc­cess. Yet in a cam­paign dom­i­nated by Trump’s con­tro­ver­sies, vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­cans across the na­tion are ea­ger to latch onto a fa­mil­iar con­ser­va­tive cause.

Sev­eral Repub­li­cans in dif­fi­cult races leapt at Tuesday’s rate hike, in­clud­ing Sens. Kelly Ay­otte in New Hamp­shire and Roy Blunt in Mis­souri. Fight­ing a chal­lenge from New Hamp­shire Gov. Mag­gie Has­san, Ay­otte’s cam­paign asked, “Will Has­san con­tinue to stand in lock-step with Hil­lary Clin­ton and her party in sup­port of the fail­ing law?”

Clin­ton did not ad­dress the cost surges dur­ing an af­ter­noon rally on the Broward Col­lege cam­pus in Co­conut Creek.

Not­ing that her crowd was di­verse, she said, “I bet some of you or maybe your par­ents or grand­par­ents came from places where none of that was true.” She said Trump was “at­tack­ing ev­ery­thing that has set our coun­try apart for 240 years.”

Also Tuesday, Clin­ton picked up the en­dorse­ment of for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Colin Pow­ell, a Repub­li­can who an­nounced his in­ten­tion to vote for her dur­ing an ap­pear­ance in New York.

On Oba­macare, Clin­ton spokes­woman Jen­nifer Palmieri con­ceded that “cost con­trols are a big con­cern for Hil­lary Clin­ton.”

She said the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee has a plan to lower in­sur­ance costs, “both through the pub­lic op­tion and a Medi­care buy-in.” She warned that Trump’s plan would strip in­sur­ance from roughly 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who now ben­e­fit.

Trump, who must win the bat­tle­ground state to have any chance at the 270 elec­toral votes needed to win the pres­i­dency, ap­peared at three cam­paign events Tuesday, his third straight day in the state. Clin­ton, who can win the pres­i­dency with or without Florida, made one ap­pear­ance on the first day of a two-day swing.

While the can­di­dates sparred, hun­dreds of thousands of Florid­i­ans were vot­ing. Tuesday marked the sec­ond day of early in-per­son vot­ing. Early vot­ing by mail be­gan two weeks ago.

Tra­di­tion­ally, Repub­li­cans have run up a large ad­van­tage in mail-in-bal­lots, while Democrats rely on early vot­ing to boost their turnout num­bers. This year the par­ties are run­ning nearly even.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump ges­tures as he ar­rives to speak to a cam­paign rally Tuesday in San­ford, Fla.

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