And progressive groups are planning a two-month cross-country bus tour to fight the repeal effort, starting Tuesday.
With their quick strike on the law in the first days of the new Congress, Republicans had hoped to begin the repeal process before a backlash could develop or opposition could be organized. But congressional Republicans are at risk of losing the message war, especially since they are fighting on two fronts.
On one side, the president-elect has repeatedly lobbed disruptive demands at them, such as his insistence that they prepare a replacement health bill almost immediately. To that, he added a new promise over the weekend: that the Republican version would provide “insurance for everybody.”
On the other front, Democratic lawmakers have taken to quoting grateful constituents to personalize what can be an arcane legislative fight: Bryce in Seattle; Randy in Rhinelander, Wis.; Nicole in Hockessin, Del.; and many more. The focus of public attention appears to be shifting from the well-documented defects of the health care law to the plaintive pleas of people terrified of losing insurance if the law is repealed.
“I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart because I would be dead if it weren’t for him,” Jeff Jeans, a small-business man from Sedona, Ariz., who described himself as a lifelong Republican, told Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Thursday at a town-hall-style meeting televised on CNN.
Republicans acknowledge their constituents’ concerns, but they say supporters of the health law are manufacturing them. Representative Rob Woodall, Republican of Georgia, blamed Democrats for “amping up anxiety” with “fear mongering.”