Republicans eyeing the 2016 White House race battered President Barack Obama’s health care law and nicked one another Saturday, auditioning before a high-profile gathering of conservatives that some political veterans said marked the campaign’s unofficial start.
A speaking program packed with potential presidential candidates weighed in on the House Republicans’ controversial budget, the party’s struggle with Hispanics, the GOP’s future and the upcoming midterm elections while taking turns on a conference room stage facing hundreds of conservative activists gathered in New Hampshire’s largest city.
But the Republican Party’s near-universal opposition to the president’s health care law dominated the conversation just days after Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius resigned after leading the rocky rollout of the program derided as “Obamacare.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz declared that one resignation is not enough. “We are going to repeal every single word of Obamacare,” said the first-term senator and tea-party favorite.
Another tea-party favorite, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, insisted that the GOP must broaden its appeal in order to grow. The Republican Party, he said, cannot be a party of “fat cats, rich people and Wall Street.”
Neither Paul nor Cruz defended the sweeping budget plan authored by another potential presidential contender, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. The budget, approved by the Republican-led House in recent days, transforms entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to help reduce federal spending.