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White House Deflects Blame for GOP Gains

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Shifting demographics and Republican turnout fueled another victorious election night for Republican candidates, the White House contends, not the president or his health care law.  

The morning after a Republican won the Kentucky governor's race and a year after another GOP success in the midterms, reporters pushed Press Secretary Josh Earnest Wednesday on whether President Barack Obama is to blame for Republican gains in Congress and at the state level since he took office. Republicans also won races in Mississippi and Virginia, and GOP officials said those victories show the party has momentum headed into 2016.  

“A year after historic midterm victories and 90 days before the Iowa caucuses, Democrats were defeated in races across the country,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus touted in a statement.  

Earnest pinned Republicans' success Tuesday and in recent elections on changes in both demographics and congressional district lines.  

“Observations have been made by some about the strategy that Republicans have focused on redistricting efforts, and that has recently started to bear fruit for them,” Earnest said. “You know, in other cases, it's just that — particularly in off-year elections — that Republicans have been more effective in turning out their vote.”  

In the Bluegrass State, Obama’s health care law was a major issue in the gubernatorial race. Republican Matt Bevin vowed to target both the Obama law and Medicaid once in office and often cast the health overhaul as "a disaster for Kentucky taxpayers."  

When asked about the law’s role in the Kentucky contest, Earnest acknowledged the outcome is the latest example that “vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, in some cases, has been used as an effective political strategy that's not a terribly effective governing strategy.”  

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He went on to describe the law and Medicaid as too important and effective to cut.  

“Since Medicaid was expanded in Kentucky, more than a half a million Kentuckians have gotten ... health care coverage through Medicaid or CHIP,” he said, referring to a health insurance program for kids from low-income families.  

"That's why the uninsured rate across the country is at all-time lows," Earnest said, "and even the uninsured rate in Kentucky has been cut in half since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.”  

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