Health Care Repeal Wars Fracturing GOP Primary Candidates

March 26, 2010 5:28 a.m.

For Republican candidates across the country, the movement du jour seems to be a pledge to repeal health care reform if elected. Republicans are rushing to co-sponsor and promote efforts to repeal the bill on Capitol Hill. But not everyone is biting, exposing another fissure between the GOP’s right and far-right.

The latest GOPers caught in the mix are in Delaware — with candidate Christine O’Donnell (R-DE) challenging Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) to sign on to repeal plans. Castle, like every single Congressional Republican, opposed the legislation. But he said that repealing “is not realistic.”

Similar spats have sparked across the country with repeal-happy candidates like Marco Rubio (R-FL) accusing Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) of not taking a harsh enough stand. According to the Conservative Club for Growth, which is tracking “Repeal It” pledge-takers, 226 candidates across the country have signed on.Rubio has been going after Crist to join him as a Repeal It pledge-taker. Even though Crist says he would support rolling back the legislation and his attorney general’s lawsuit claiming the bill is unconstitutional, he’s not signing. The intra-party warfare smacks of the anti-tax pledge that Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform has been demanding that Republicans sign for years.

As we’ve reported, the Republicans don’t seem settled on their message given the new political landscape of health care reform growing more popular now that its law and facing a newly energized Democratic party.

The splits are seeming to pop up in some of the bluer states where Democrats have an advantage. In Delaware Castle said it doesn’t make sense to try and repeal the measure while President Obama remains in charge, since he can veto anything Congress sends him. Castle said it’s “not the best use of our efforts.”

But according to, O’Donnell charges that by not signing, Castle is “breaking faith with the people of Delaware and America in refusing to support the conservative-led effort to repeal ObamaCare, a totally disastrous and unconstitutional health bill.”

In California, Tom Campbell (R) hasn’t signed it, but his Senate primary rivals Carly Fiorina (R) and Chuck DeVore (R) are leading the repeal charge. In the Republican primary race to in Connecticut, longshot Peter Schiff has signed the pledge but Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons have not.

The red states have their splits too. In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats hasn’t jumped on board, but tea party candidate Marlin Stutzman has. In Utah, Sen. Bob Bennett (R) has a tough caucus challenge from the right. So this week he signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Jim DeMint’s repeal legislation.

For his part, Obama says Republicans should “go for it,” and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told reporters this week they will hold GOPers accountable for trying to repeal the bill.

“We are actually pursuing every Republican and want them to say for the record that they’re for repeal because being for repeal means taking away rights, taking away benefits,” Menendez said in response to a question from TPMDC. “We’re happy to battle them on that field.”

Additional reporting by Evan McMorris-Santoro and Brian Beutler

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