Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Richard Burr and a couple of his fellow Senators rolled out a new plan to replace Obamacare. They claimed it would take the best of health care reform while scrapping all the bad parts. Now, just a few days later, the Senator and his colleagues are quietly backtracking after realizing it would be a major tax increase on most Americans.

The episode shows the problem with the GOP’s strategy of keeping Obamacare the central issue in the mid-term elections. They don’t really have an alternative. And anything they come up with is going to have serious flaws, because–Guess what?–health care reform is hard.

Any plan they are going to come up with has winners and losers. If they are going to keep the ban on pre-existing conditions and other parts of Obamacare that people want, then they are going to alienate insurance companies or doctors or some other group they need. If they scrap those provisions, they are going to alienate the rest of the country.

If they are going to keep Obamacare as their main target, their choices of how to handle it are limited. They can continue to call for repeal with no real alternative, but most polls show that’s not what Americans want. They can offer alternatives, like Burr did, but as I said, most of these plans will have elements that anger somebody. Or they can just continue to point out the flaws in Obamacare and not offer any alternative or fixes and hope that the voters are so frustrated with the program that they don’t ask for any.

The Republicans may have overplayed their hand on Obamacare. They’ve been warning Americans about its disastrous consequences for going on three years but now that the law is going into effect people aren’t seeing them. A Kaiser poll last week showed that while the law is still unpopular, 60% of the people say they haven’t been affected. If these numbers hold, there’s likely to be a collective shrug about the law, and the GOP may lose credibility for crying wolf.

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