Republicans Say What They're Running Against, But Not What They're Running For

By Susan Jones | March 24, 2014 | 6:56 AM EDT

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (AP File Photo)

( - Republicans are strong because Obamacare has made Democrats weak. That's the message delivered by Republican Party officials in a conference call on Friday.

But amid all their criticism of Obamacare, the Republicans didn't explain or promote their own ideas.

"We have alternatives we'll be putting forward," promised Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who head the National Republican Congressional Committee. "We will have a comprehensive set of ideas on how to reform health care. But what they (Democrats) crammed down the throats of American taxpayers is atrocious."

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus said, "Thanks to Obamacare, we know that Democrats are in disarray. It's a poisonous issue for them, and we see it all over the country."

Priebus said the 2014 election map is giving Democrats "complete fits." "I don't think there's any serious observer that believes that Democrats can take the House, and the Senate is slipping away from them...And that's because Americans are hurting as a result of this law."

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Republicans' electoral opportunities "have expanded dramatically" in the past year because the Affordable Care Act has created a "lack of credibility" among Democrats.

"When I began in January of 2013, I seriously believed that we had the opportunity to gain five, six maybe seven seats. Today, as you look at an electoral map and the Senate races of 2014, we have strong credible candidates in races that can be won by those candidates in 10, 11, 12, 13 states across the country."

You seem "pretty confident" of a Republican-controlled Senate, a reporter told Moran.

"[O]ur success is determined by what we do between now and November 2014," Moran responded. "Elections occur on election day. But, I can tell you that as I analyze it, the Republicans across the country have a lot in their favor. The opportunity for us to gain seats in the United States Senate is real. We certainly have an opportunity to have a majority and a number larger than a simple majority."

Moran said he bases that prediction on history -- and on "the environment in which the president's popularity and Obamacare in particular is so damaging to Democrats, nationally." He also mentioned the quality of Republican candidates in general.

RNC Chairman Priebus followed up: "Yeah, I mean, if you go across the country, it's very clear that Obamacare is affecting Democrats everywhere." Unlike 2012 and earlier, President Obama and  his policies are increasingly unpopular, Priebus said. He called it a "recipe for giving the Republican party a huge advantage coming into November."

A reporter raised the issue of employers shifting to high-deductible plans paired with health savings accounts: "Is that going to be an issue that Republicans discuss and in what way?" the reporter asked.

Rep. Walden said Obamacare has restricted how people can use their HSAs: "And I think that's the wrong, and I think you'll see us talk about, as one of our alternatives, actually enhancing the notion of health savings accounts."

Rep. Moran responded, "What I think Republicans have offered is options for people to choose if they want to have higher deductibles or HSAs."

Another reporter asked if Republicans "have a plan" to run against parts of Obamacare -- or if they plan to run against the entire law:

Rep. Moran said he gets lots of negative feedback on "the dire circumstances" that Obamacare has created, but he admitted he also gets "rare" praise for the law as well:

"My point would be, surely we can develop a health care plan that is not -- that is not so damaging to so many people -- their businesses, their individuals, their families, and to the economy and still find ways to be helpful to people who need assistance in regard to health care.

"I think it's important that Republicans support improving our health care system. And I think that we do, but Obamacare creates so many problems, it's not workable for the country...So I think there's no question but what Republicans intend to make clear they're supportive of improving access to affordable health care, without the disaster of Obamacare," Moran said.

Rep. Walden told another reporter, "Democrats are in real trouble" because their leaders are advising them to "embrace" Obamacare.

"I'm telling you, you're embracing a prickly pear cactus when you do. And...that's the take-away lesson from Florida 13. It's not the only issue out there, but it is a brutal issue if you're the Democrat. Because people wanted reform in health care. We had alternatives. We have alternatives we'll be putting forward. We will have a comprehensive set of ideas on how to reform health care," he promised, without elaborating.

Priebus concluded the call by saying that Republicans "gotta keep our head down and work hard. And obviously, politically, that's all we can do, is take it one month at a time and hope that we're successful in November. We've got staff on the ground in all of these states and more. They've been on the ground for months and I think that we're -- we're ahead of the Democrats right now."

Republicans arranged the Friday conference call to mark the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act two days later -- on Sunday.