Ted Cruz, the Obamacare Candidate

No Republican contender looks as likely to make repealing the Affordable Care Act as central an issue as Cruz

March 23, 2015, 7:32 a.m.

No issue encompasses Sen. Ted Cruz’s pledge to “restore” the American dream alongside “courageous conservatives,”—the slogans of his 2016 presidential announcement Monday—more than repealing the most hated law in all conservatism: Obamacare.

Cruz, speaking at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., canvassed everything from Common Core to Iran’s nuclear ambitions in his remarks, using an “Imagine” motif to lay out his vision for a conservative presidency. But the Affordable Care Act warranted the most time and the most specific promise in his 30-minute announcement.

“Five years ago today, the president signed Obamacare into law,” Cruz said, timing not lost on the political cognoscenti when his speech was announced.

His venue had a resonance, too: Liberty University sued the federal government over the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the requirement that insurance cover birth control. Cruz hadn’t forgotten. “Within hours, Liberty University went to court to file a lawsuit,” he said to huge cheers.

(RELATED: 5 Years In, 5 Busted Predictions About Obamacare)

“Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums,” he said, “imagine in 2017, a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.”

Every Republican candidate is going to promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with conservative-minded reforms, but none have made it as central to their political careers thus far as Cruz.

He raised his national profile, for both better and worse, with a failed attempt to defund the law during the 2013 government shutdown with a 16-hour quasi-filibuster on the Senate floor. Cruz has chastised his own party’s congressional leaders for not doing enough to stop the law. This month, he introduced a replacement plan that, while not as comprehensive as others floated by his colleagues, includes mainstay conservative proposals like allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines.

Monday, Cruz hinted, though largely with platitudes, at a plan to replace the law that is estimated to have covered more than 15 million since it passed.

(RELATED: Is Canadian-Born Ted Cruz Eligible to Run for President?)

“Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor,” Cruz said, “and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.”

The Texan portrayed his candidacy as a quest “to reclaim the Constitution of the United States.” The centerpiece of that effort, it seems, will be undoing the signature legislative achievement of his would-be predecessor, who was the implicit target of Cruz’s many promises to “reclaim” and “restore” America. As he concluded the list of things that he wanted his audience of college students to imagine, he returned to it again.

“Over and over again, when we’ve faced impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge,” Cruz said. “You know, compared to that, repealing Obamacare and abolishing the IRS ain’t all that tough. The power of the American people when we rise up and stand for liberty knows no bounds.”

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