In ‘war of ideas,’ Jindal unveils Obamacare replacement

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal rolled out a plan Wednesday to repeal and replace Obamacare — marking the Republican’s latest attempt to claim part of the national stage as the GOP’s 2016 presidential jockeying intensifies.

Mr. Jindal, who acknowledged he is thinking about running for president but said right now he’s focused on winning the “war of ideas,” said Republicans have to show voters that they can do more than oppose the president’s contentious new health law if they want to earn victories in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

“There are too many Republicans in this town thinking that we can just run against Obamacare,” Mr. Jindal said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “There may be short-term tactical reasons that makes sense to a lot of folks, but I think that is wrong. If we want to earn the right to be in the majority, we have to offer specific ideas.”

Mr. Jindal, who has been governor of Louisiana since 2008, said his plan is a “conservative, consumer-based set of health care principles and specific policies,” beginning with a change in the tax code that would create an incentive for Americans to have coverage whether they get it through their employer or on their own.

The blueprint relies on the states to set their own reforms, doling out a grant pool of more than $100 billion over the next decade to let states subsidize insurance for low-income residents and, as a precondition for the funding, make sure people with pre-existing health problems are not denied coverage.

“Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, I think we should trust the states,” the 42-year-old Mr. Jindal said, pointing to studies that show these kinds of reforms would reduce premiums for business and individuals. “What that means is, compared to Obamacare, compared to where we are today, premiums would go down on average $5,000 for a family buying insurance in an individual insurance market.”

Republican leaders in Washington have been promising a repeal-and-replace strategy on Obamacare for years. They have held repeated votes on the repeal portion, but Democratic critics say they have yet to agree on their own replacement package, which has left some Republicans worried about facing voters without an alternative.

Mr. Jindal’s alternative could give him a substantive leg up on many of his potential rivals in 2016, though he has gotten less attention than many of them, including fellow GOP Govs. Chris Christie in New Jersey and Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz on Capitol Hill, and even former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

Mr. Jindal finished in 10th place last month in the Washington Times-Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, which tests the sentiment of the party’s grassroots activists.

He does appear to be laying the foundation for a presidential campaign, with trips to early-voting states Iowa and New Hampshire already under his belt.

Last year, he made national headlines by defending Phil Robertson, one of the cast members of the popular reality show “Duck Dynasty.” Mr. Robertson had been suspended for an interview he gave where he shared his unfiltered opinions on sin, gays and the Jim Crow South.

Mr. Jindal also received national attention earlier this year after he delivered a stinging rebuke of the Obama administration outside the White House following a bipartisan meeting of governors with Mr. Obama.

Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist, said there is an opening for Mr. Jindal to make waves in the presidential race.

Jindal has spoken before about changing the party’s perception with voters, from that of an opposition party to an idea party,” Mr. Madden said.”Promoting a health care plan can help position him as an idea-driven leader in the party, as someone who can compete for swing voters by making the case for conservative policies.”

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