Quick note on last nights debate

 Certainly yesterday was one of the more eventful days in politics. Rick Perry drops out and endorses Newt Gingrich, the GOP folks in Iowa go ahead and announce that Rick Santorum won their caucus, and finally last night’s debate was definitely the fieriest one so far. I don’t really have the time to go in depth here, which is a shame, but I’d like to point out one particular part:

“Substantively, the debate covered mostly familiar ground. To King’s credit, he asked some good policy questions, too – among other things, he wanted to know what the Republican candidates would do after repealing the Affordable Care Act? Remember, the law will allow an additional 30 million people to get health insurance, set basic standards for everybody’s coverage, and, according to official projections, reduce federal deficits while starting to get overall health care costs under control.

The question went to Romney and the discussion afterwards turned quickly to which candidate was most committed to repeal in the first place. But Romney did outline his plan, which appears very similar to the familiar conservative initiatives that John McCain proposed in 2008. Projections suggested that McCain’s plan either would have covered very few people or covered many but only at an exorbitant price. In other words, the alternative to the Affordable Care Act is to offer people far less help getting insurance and paying for medical care. Yes, I’ll have more to say on this soon.”

That’s Jonathan Cohn, jotting down a few notes after last night’s festivities. 

The GOP has largely gotten away with speaking as little as possible about the second half of their “Repeal and Replace” pledge after the lukewarm reception for Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan. After last night, it is perhaps a little more clear that the consensus is to sort of build on that plan – combined with some of the ideas highlighted by candidate McCain in ’08. However, we’re at a different place in the landscape of American health care. The Affordable Care Act partially represents a new status quo, and the Republican Party will have to present their alternative to the status quo with a level of detail they’ve not been comfortable with so far.

The general election, despite the assertions of GOP political analyists, will necessarily include comparisons. It will not be a one candidate, one side exploration of what the future holds in national policy. The Republican message will need to be “I have a better idea, here’s what it is” not just “His idea is/was bad, end of story.”

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