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White House: Don’t call it Trumpcare

President Donald Trump has at turns referred to the recently unveiled bill as “Our wonderful new Healthcare Bill,” “the new and great health care program” and “the replacement plan.” | AP Photo

Critics are hijacking the branding process for the GOP health plan as the White House resists slapping the president’s name on it.

He built his career in large part by plastering his name on skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, books, wines and steaks, but there appears to be one place President Donald Trump does not want his favorite five-letter word — the Republican health care bill.

Before Obamacare, there was Romneycare. Back in the 1990s, there was Hillarycare. For a brief moment in the 2012 GOP primary, there was even Obamneycare (Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty quickly abandoned the phrase and, in August 2011, his campaign for the nomination). But the White House, for all its messaging woes and infighting, has settled on the fact that — for the time being — it’s steering clear of Trumpcare.

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“Pretty much anything with the pejorative suffix on it — ‘care’ — is going to be viewed unfavorably by conservatives,” said former longtime Mitt Romney spokesman Ryan Williams, who was with the Massachusetts governor when he signed Romneycare. Romney had hoped to tout it in his 2008 presidential campaign, and he campaigned on a promise to repeal Obamacare in 2012.

“Anything with the word ‘care’ in it pretty much sounds bad to people these days,” Williams said.

Trump and his team seem perfectly attuned to that risk. But conservatives rallying against the plan have filled the branding void with what they hope to be their own derogatory titles like Ryancare, Obamacare 2.0 and Obamacare-lite.

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When asked during the daily White House briefing on Tuesday whether the White House would embrace the House GOP plan as Trumpcare, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price demurred.

“I prefer to call it patient care,” Price said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was pressed on the same issue. “We’re less concerned with labels right now and more in terms of action and results,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway was also reluctant to commit to any particular nickname for the legislation.

“I’ll call it Trumpcare if you want to, but I didn’t hear President Trump say to any of us, ‘Hey I want my name on that,’” Conway told Fox News. “We’re happy it is the American Health Care Act. This is serious stuff. This isn’t about branding according to someone’s name.”

A White House spokesperson, however, was more emphatic. “It’s not Trumpcare,” the spokesperson said Wednesday. “We will be calling it by its official name,” the American Health Care Act.

Still, the White House is signaling that any reluctance to tiethe president’s name to the bill should not be interpreted as mixed feelings or a tepid endorsement. A senior White House official was adamant on Wednesday that the White House is behind the bill and that its failure would be a big failure for the president.

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Democrats, though, have been eagerly embracing the term.

“What we have after the repeal is Trumpcare,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has said, before House Republicans revealed their plan. “Whatever is left after the dust settles is Trumpcare. Now, I know the president likes to play close attention to what he puts his name on.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have a track record of putting catchy labels on Democrats’ health care plans. The GOP came up with the term “Obamacare,” a label that quickly caught on with conservatives angry about what they called a government takeover of health care. They demagogued a series of state-based goody provisions in the law such as the Cornhusker Kickback, the Baystate Boondoggle and the Louisiana Purchase. They even attached Hillarycare to the Clinton administration’s health care effort in the 1990s.

But now that they have their own health care bill to name, they seem to be at a loss for a catchy title.

When asked this week how they felt about the name Trumpcare, several Republican lawmakers on the Hill were quick to duck the question.

“Oh I’m terrible at naming things,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

“I must say, I haven’t given it much thought,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said.

Spicer: Trump in ‘sell mode’ on health care bill

White House press secretary Sean Spicer talks about health care on Wednesday.