Health Care: Run On It or Against It?

Republicans think they have a winning issue in health care reform, calling for its repeal and slamming the new law as big government gone haywire-even before most of its provisions have taken effect. A new poll suggests it’s not so clear-cut, and some Democrats seem to agree.

Case in point: Sen. Russ Feingold, who’s running on his vote for the health care bills that President Obama signed in March. His new TV ad touts his support for new law and warns his GOP opponent, Ron Johnson: “hands off my health care.” Johnson has his own ad, claiming that Feingold went against his state’s wishes when he voted for the health care bills.

It’s a roll of the dice for Feingold, who’s trailing in the polls. A new Pew Research/National Journal poll shows that 35 percent of voters say they’re less likely to support a candidate who backed the new law, while 36 percent say they’re more likely to support a health care backer. While a large majority of Republicans say they’re less likely to vote for a pro-health care candidate, a large majority of Democrats say the opposite. Among independents, 29 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for someone who supported the new law, while 37 percent said they’d be less likely to do so. A Washington Post poll also out this week shows a similar divide.

But then there are the 25 percent who said they would make no difference at all in how they voted.

“Repeal and replace” has been a health care mantra for Republican candidates almost since the law was signed. But what that means is open to speculation. The House GOP’s Pledge to America says: “we will immediately take action to repeal this law.” In its place, the pledge suggests medical liability aka tort reform, expansion of tax-exempt health savings accounts and allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, but offers few other specifics.

It’s not that Republicans think that the law is all bad. Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state recently conceded to CNN’s Candy Crowley that the GOP plan would keep two popular provisions: Allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance; and prohibiting denial of insurance based on a pre-existing condition. Everything else, she said, is up for debate.

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