Abortion has been brought to the forefront of the political arena over the past month after the release of several sting videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, in particular, have made the issue a key part of their presidential message.
"A lot of people are talking about defunding Planned Parenthood, as if that's a huge game changer. I think it's time to do something even more bold," said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee during the debate. "I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother's womb is a person at the moment of conception."
And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: "What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection. In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States."
But before the release of the videos, if Republicans had been talking about health care, it was generally to vow to continue their crusade against Obamacare. In June, the Supreme Court upheld the law for the second time, prompting Democrats to say the ACA is here to stay and Republicans to punt to 2017, when the GOP could simultaneously hold the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006.
Not that Obamacare will be forgotten.
"You get in and you change every aspect of regulations that are job-killers. You get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something that doesn't suppress wages and kill jobs," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Walker also briefly mentioned it: "One of the best things we can do is get the government out of the way, repeal Obamacare, put in — rein in all the out-of-control regulations," he said, before listing policy suggestions unrelated to health care.
"[Abortion is] not a new debate, it's an old debate, and Obamacare is a tremendously animating force in the Republican base," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum. "It brings voters out, it's one of the things that generates energy and turnout, and it is such a sweeping law and has impacts in areas of the labor force and economic growth and tax policy and insurance policy, delivery systems — it hits so many things that ... you just can't avoid it."
But Holtz-Eakin, who worked on John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008, said Obamacare will play a "much bigger" role in the general election.
"In 2010, it was an enormous force for Republicans. In 2014 it was again," he said. "In 2012, Mitt Romney had to run away from health care issues because of his experience as governor. He didn't want to go there. So when we get the general election, and it's a candidate versus the Democrat, presumably Hillary Clinton, you'll hear a lot more about it."