As the GOP’s movement to repeal the health care bill continues to stumble, a Democratic challenger to North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr is putting the Republican opposition to reform at the heart of her campaign. “Richard Burr Wants to Repeal Health Care Reform,” North Carolina’s Secretary of State Elaine Marshall writes in a fundraising letter sent Tuesday. “We Say it’s Time to REPEAL BURR!”
Marshall has launched a new website, repealburr.com, to build momentum behind her anti-incumbency campaign, which has celebrated the reform effort and her own credibility as a progressive outsider. It seems like Burr himself has begun to realize that his call to repeal the bill could become a real drag on his re-election effort—like so many other Republicans, he is backpedalling fast. The Washington Independent flags Burr’s recent waffling: “It may not be total repeal at the end of the day…It may be a series of fixes over the course of this bill getting enacted.”
Though he still leads Marshall, the leading Democratic candidate, by 41 to 36 points, Burr has slipped in the polls and drawn dismally low approval ratings in recent months. And he’s particularly vulnerable in a state that has never been kind to incumbents. Calling him “ostensibly the most endangered GOP incumbent facing re-election,” Hotline On Call notes that Burr holds a seat that hasn’t re-elected an incumbent since 1968. Burr himself seems increasingly aware that representing the “Party of No” isn’t likely to serve him well this year. In his first campaign ad, Burr makes zero mention of the GOP or his opposition to Democratic policies, focusing instead on his personal connection with voters back home.
At the same time, Republicans are getting pressure from right-wing activists who are demanding they remain faithful to their pledge to overturn health care reform. As Dave Weigel explains, repeal is the new litmus test for the Tea Party right. Groups such as the Club for Growth and GOP primary challengers have criticized Republicans for softening their calls for repeal. And if Republicans like Burr are forced to resist the calls for repeal, they could alienate their anti-reform base—a fissure that’s likely to work in the favor of Democrats. At the end of the day, the GOP may find that the repeal movement becomes a far bigger liability than they had ever expected.