A growing chorus of Republican officials is pledging to push for a full repeal of health care reform legislation, weeks before a bill actually lands on the president's desk for signing.
In an email to the Huffington Post, Alex Conant, a former RNC press secretary and an adviser to possible 2012 candidate Tim Pawlenty, said that while Republicans will push their own health care reform agenda in upcoming elections, they also plan to run on a promise to nullify what Democrats are poised to pass.
"Republicans see last week's health care vote as a top issue in the 2010 campaign," wrote Conant. "As for the repeal, Republicans have a truck full of ideas on how to expand access, improve quality, and lower costs. I'm sure there will be some focus on repealing provisions of the Democrats' plan, but the most pressing issue will likely be addressing health care costs and lowering the financial toll this bill will have on taxpayers. Republicans will certainly campaign on repealing $500 billion of tax increases for a bloated government-run health care."
The remarks are one of the most telling indications to date that the health care reform battles of 2009 will be on the ballot in 2010 and 2012. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he expects "every Republican in 2010 and 2012" to "run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill." Meanwhile the Plum Line, which has done much of the work advancing this story, quoted Max Pappas, the Vice President for Public Policy of Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, saying that Republicans were "going to have to prove that they are worthy of their votes" by pledging to repeal health care reform.
Noted Republican pollster John McLaughlin predicts that a campaign to repeal reform could be a common thread in 2010 both because the conservative base is clamoring for the push and also because it resonates with voters outside of the Republican tent.
"Chances are it would be very popular with their base, absolutely and it would probably attract seniors and independent voters who are worried about spending and taxing," he told the Huffington Post.
Pressed about how low-income and minority communities (specifically the Hispanic population) will react to calls to repeal a law that could provide them with thousands of dollars in individual health care subsidies, McLaughlin responded: quite well.
"You are assuming that the Hispanic vote is some sort of uninsured, very working-class monolithic vote. With the Hispanic vote you have a lot of small business owners who won't like the mandates in here and won't like the taxes in here... what's going to happen is, Hispanic voters who are voters, who are citizens already paying taxes, are really not going to like the outcome of this."
McLaughlin's analysis is supported by other public survey data, notably a National Journal report published in August which showed that Hispanics -- despite making up a sizable portion of the uninsured -- were tepid on the various reform proposals making their way through Congress. Though not every Republican pollster is ready to predict how health care reform will play with different groups or constituencies.
"I have not asked a question like this so don't yet have an opinion," Bill McInturff, a prominent GOP pollster who has worked extensively on health care reform, told the Huffington Post. "When we do, I think it will be a perfect example of the bromide that a poll is a snapshot of only one point in time. My guess is reaction to this bill is not set and will vary over time in a way that is difficult to predict right now."
If the GOP wants to debate the repeal of reform, Democrats aren't exactly quivering. According to data compiled by the White House, states with several key Senate races stand to gain the most with the passage of reform legislation -- statistics that will be pointed out ad nauseam once the election season heats up.
* In Illinois, for example, "1.8 million residents who do not currently have insurance and 612,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange."
* In Colorado, "826,000 residents who do not currently have insurance and 345,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange."
* In Florida, "4 million residents who do not currently have insurance and 1.1 million residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange."
* And in Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty's home state, "519,000 residents who do not currently have insurance and 356,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange."
"If a Republican Senate candidate is going to look his voters in the eye next November, and pledge if elected to roll back historic reform which will have ended appalling insurance practices, afforded coverage to hundreds of thousands constituents, brought down costs for families and small businesses and lowered the deficit, then I volunteer to help that campaign make pitch calls to reporters," said Eric Schultz, press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
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