Republicans love running against Obamacare, and in the half-decade since the law passed, they've ridden that strategy to a host of congressional and gubernatorial victories. They've been particularly successful in leveraging the law to oust moderate Democrats from purple states. In that regard, as Kentucky Republicans hope to retake the Governor's Mansion this November, the anti-Obamacare campaign strategy appears ideal. But in Kentucky, it's not so simple, because in Kentucky, the law has had tremendous success in getting state residents insured.
More than half a million Kentuckians signed up for private insurance or Medicaid through the state's Obamacare exchange. Since the exchange—known as "Kynect"—launched in 2013, the state has cut its uninsured rate by more than 40 percent. And because Kentucky, unlike many red and purple states, set up its own exchange, the state's aspiring insurance buyers were spared the early failures of HealthCare.gov. In exit polling from the 2014 Senate race, 50 percent of voters said Kynect was functioning "well" or "very well," compared with 37 percent who assessed the exchange negatively.
The exchange's popularity, however, didn't stop Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell from attacking Obamacare en route to a massive victory last year over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell, who has pushed relentlessly for repeal of the law, as the top Republican in the Senate, added a Kentucky twist for his state race: He attacked Obamacare as a whole, but said Kynect could survive even if the federal law came off the books. (The claim was challenged by Democrats, who noted that the exchange depends in part on Obamacare subsidies and mandates.)