The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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April 12, 2014

'Obamacare' under attack as conservatives eye 2016

(Continued)

MANCHESTER, N.H. —

The summit comes as prospective presidential candidates begin to step up appearances in key states ahead of the 2016 presidential contest, even though New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary isn't planned for another two years.

"It's the unofficial kickoff of the 2016 process," said Republican operative Mike Biundo, who managed Rick Santorum's last presidential campaign.

As potential presidential candidates jockey for position, the stakes are high for the November's midterm elections, where Republicans are fighting to claim the Senate majority. The president's health care law could figure prominently in November House and Senate contests across the country.

The industrialist Koch brothers-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, which co-hosted Saturday's summit, has already spent millions of dollars on health care-related attack ads aimed at vulnerable Democratic senators in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and elsewhere.

Sebelius resigned on Friday, days after the Obama administration announced that enrollment in the Affordable Care Act had grown to 7.5 million, a figure that exceeded expectations and gave Democrats a surprise success after a disastrous rollout. It was welcome news for Democrats who've been forced to defend their support for the unpopular law.

In a conference call, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., insisted that "Democrats are not running away from the Affordable Care Act."

Democratic National Committee spokesman Mike Czin noted that Republican opposition to the health care law was the foundation of the GOP's unsuccessful political strategy in 2012. He said that the debate has changed now that the law has been implemented and millions of people are enjoying its benefits.

"That's a debate that we're going to have, and we're eager to have," Czin said.

At the same time, Van Hollen, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, called for Republicans to defend their support for a GOP budget plan introduced this week that would repeal the health care law, transform Medicare, reintroduce the "doughnut hole" for prescription drug costs and enact deep cuts in education.

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