Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

In a private phone call obtained by the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told his donors that Republicans’ obsession with limiting access to healthcare was the deciding factor in losing them the House of Representatives in last year’s midterm elections.

McCarthy specifically pointed to the hardline Freedom Caucus as a source of the problem. The hard right caucus lost several of its members in the midterms.

“When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for [the original Republican bill]” McCarthy said on the call. “That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”

McCarthy is referring to the much-reviled American Health Care Act, which failed in the Senate after it passed the House. On the call, he blamed the Freedom Caucus for demanding the amendment, but as the Post points out, moderate Republicans supported it as well.

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McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks told the Post that his boss “has been clear-eyed on what went wrong last cycle and no one is more committed to doing everything necessary to win back the House and execute an agenda that offers every American limitless potential to get ahead.”

Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus chairman and godawful racist, was upset by the comments, calling them “very troublesome.”

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“I hoped the us-versus-them mentality of the past was something that indeed was in the past,” he told the Post.

McCarthy’s comments demonstrate that progressive Democrats’ focus on healthcare has managed to trip up Republicans, even in districts that favored Trump in 2016. Now, they are being forced to take a different approach for 2020.

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“You want to aim before you fire,” McCarthy said. “Let’s find the very best people that can do this job that knows the commitment of what they’re doing to make sure that they’re going to find a solution at the end of the day.”

“Some of them lost seats that were very safe,” he added. “But it was kind of the policies that they wouldn’t let go through of why they lost. And I think those seats are better for us to win, but also the quality of the candidate will matter more.”