President Donald Trump will visit Wisconsin on Wednesday, less than two weeks ahead of a midterm election that has revolved heavily around health care issues, and a little more than a year after signing an executive order he billed as "starting that process" of undoing the Affordable Care Act.
On Oct. 12, 2017, Trump signed an executive order ending federal subsidies for health insurance cost-sharing reductions, shortly after issuing an order to allow people to buy insurance across state lines through association health plans.
The moves prompted a strongly-worded tweet from Mandela Barnes, who at the time worked for the State Innovation Exchange and is now the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
"Donald Trump wants you to die," Barnes tweeted that night.
It's one of several social media posts Wisconsin Republicans have dug up in efforts to discredit the candidate.
"This despicable rhetoric is the exact sort of thing that voters hate about politics — Tony Evers needs to immediately make clear whether or not he agrees with his running mate’s latest offensive attack on the president and his supporters," said Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Alec Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was alluding to a comment Barnes made at a forum last month, arguing he wasn't interested in courting voters who support the president: "If they voted for Obama and they voted for Trump and they're still with him, you can keep them."
One year after the fact, Barnes didn't back away from his tweet.
"The president, who remains on the wrong side of the biggest issue facing Wisconsin, is coming to campaign with our governor, who is involved in a frivolous lawsuit that would strip protections from 2.4 million people with a pre-existing condition," Barnes said in a statement. "The unfortunate fact remains, access to quality and affordable health care don't seem to matter much to Donald Trump and Scott Walker."
Trump is set to address supporters at an airport hangar in Mosinee, campaigning in support of Gov. Scott Walker, who is seeking a third term, and state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
His visit comes after months of disagreement over health care policy between Walker and Democratic challenger Tony Evers, and between Baldwin and Vukmir.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Alex Japko said Trump's visit "confirms that health care is on the ballot this November."
"It's no surprise Scott Walker is welcoming Trump into Wisconsin. Walker and Trump are actively working to undermine protections for Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions," Japko said.
Evers campaign spokesman Sam Lau noted that Evers on Monday said his first action as governor would be to instruct the state's attorney general to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking to strike down Obamacare. Wisconsin joined the lawsuit with Walker's approval.
"If successful, it could once again allow insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — such as asthma, diabetes, or cancer — or allow them to charge exceedingly high rates," Evers wrote in a letter he said he would send as his first act.
Walker has promised throughout his re-election campaign that he will preserve insurance coverage for Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, even if the federal requirement to do so under the Affordable Care Act is struck down through Wisconsin's lawsuit or by other means.
A Walker campaign spokesman promised last month that if federal law no longer required coverage for pre-existing conditions, the governor "would call a special session in a heartbeat and get (a bill) passed" to ensure coverage at the state level.
The issue is a personal one, Walker has said. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, is a cancer survivor, and several of his close family members have pre-existing health conditions. Evers, who is also a cancer survivor, has argued if Walker wants to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, he should drop the ACA lawsuit.
Trump on Tuesday tweeted that Republicans will "totally protect" people with pre-existing conditions and "Democrats will not!" He did not explain his claims.
According to a Marquette University Law School poll released earlier this month, 50 percent of voters surveyed said they support keeping the Obama-era federal health care policy on the books, while 44 percent support repealing it. Ninety-three percent of voters said the ACA’s requirement that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions is somewhat or very important to them.