WASHINGTON (NBC News) -- What do Republicans do next? The last month and a half amounted to an early Christmas (or Hanukkah) gift for the Republican Party.
After losing the last two presidential contests, after the damaging government shutdown, and the midst of a still-ongoing ideological battle inside the party, Republicans clearly have the political advantage when it comes to health care. They scored points on the federal website's woes; they bruised President Obama over those private-market cancellation notices; they've highlighted the security concerns; and they've played the card that Americans might not be able to keep their doctors.
But are they beginning to run out of ammunition? Today, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is taking a page out of the 2010/2012 playbook hitting Senate Democrats on the well-worn $700-billion-in-Medicare-cuts charge (when House Republicans have adopted those very cuts -- to providers, not beneficiaries -- in their own budget); the NRSC says the hit is in response to the Democrats' own well-worn Medicare attacks.
But the fact they are playing this card says a lot. What's more, as we mentioned yesterday, Republican leaders are no longer talking about repeal, which is now harder to pull off after Americans are purchasing their new health insurance.
Per NBC's Natalie Cucchiara, not a single Republican lawmaker used the word "repeal" on a Sunday show in the last two weeks. That's not an accident. "Repeal" does not play well with swing voters.
House Republicans tell us that their plan is to continue to highlight individual stories about canceled plans and higher costs.
"As they continue to lose their plans, find that every available replacement costs more, and lose access to their doctor, we will continue to highlight those issues," House Speaker Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says. "There will be other issues along the way (security and privacy issues on the website, for example, or the limited options available under Medicaid), but hammering on the broken promises that people see every day will continue to be at the heart of it."
Fellow Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck adds that the NRSC's Medicare hit "is a tried and true campaign hit, so it shouldn't be surprising they are continuing to talk about it, but don't let that give you any idea that we feel anything less than in the drivers' seat with plenty to talk about."
In addition, several House committees -- including Oversight and Government Reform, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means -- are holding hearings on the health-care law and its rollout. But it does seem as we've entered a new stage in the health-care battle, with Democrats regrouping (and dare we say unified), and with Republicans running out of new attacks. It's almost as if we've returned to 2012.
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