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Rep. Lewis draws flak for blaming GOP election losses on John McCain

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Second District Congressman Jason Lewis concedes.
Rep. Jason Lewis of the 2nd Congressional District concedes victory to DFL challenger Angie Craig in Bloomington on Nov. 6, 2018. Lewis on Sunday blamed the late Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain for the GOP's loss of the U.S. House.
Caroline Yang for MPR News

Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis on Sunday blamed the late Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain for the GOP's loss of the U.S. House of Representatives — an opinion that drew a swift and angry rebuke from McCain's family and supporters.

McCain's July 2017 vote against a Republican-led effort to scrap the Affordable Care Act put fellow Republicans in an electoral bind last week, Lewis, who was also defeated, wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

"McCain's last-minute decision prompted a 'green wave' of liberal special-interest money, which was used to propagate false claims that the House plan 'gutted coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.' That line was the Democrats' most potent attack in the midterms," Lewis wrote in a commentary piece under the headline "Who Lost the House? John McCain."

Lewis maintains that the House-passed health care bill would have preserved health coverage for the sickest people, perhaps by moving them into high-risk pools.

McCain died in August after a long battle with brain cancer. The Arizona senator was the party's 2008 presidential nominee and a former Navy pilot who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

His daughter, Meghan, was among those criticizing Lewis. She called his piece "abhorrent" on Twitter.

Other McCain defenders, including past aides, said the timing of the piece made things worse given that it was published on the national observance of Veterans Day.

Lewis, a first-term congressman from the southeastern Twin Cities suburbs, lost his rematch with Democrat Angie Craig, a former health care executive, by a 52-47 margin, according to uncertified returns.

A former talk radio show host, Lewis has not indicated whether he will seek office again in 2020 or return to the private sector when his term is up in January.

A message sent to his campaign manager about the commentary was not immediately returned.

Editor's note (Nov. 12, 2018): An earlier version of this story said Lewis' opinion piece ran Monday. To clarify, the Wall Street Journal posted it online Sunday and ran it in Monday's newspaper.