Some on the right are angry at Mitt Romney today over this National Journal report claiming that he has effectively declared a “cease fire” in the health care wars. National Journal notes that Romney’s campaign “has been giving off clear signals that it doesn’t want to make health care a major part of the election.”
“It’s becoming clear that Romney has decided to focus on the economy at the expense of everything else,” the report says.
I don’t know if this will prove to be true or not. But Romney’s discomfort on the issue is now taking on comic dimensions, and it’s worth underscoring that however unpopular Obamacare may be, it very well may be that Obama retains an advantage on health care over his rival.
Today’s Post/ABC News poll finds that just 30 percent have a favorable view of Romney’s approach to health care, versus 47 percent who have an unfavorable view of it. Obama fares better, at 45-48.
The low percentage of people viewing Romney’s approach to health care favorably is driven by the large number of people who haven’t made up their minds about it. But if Romney is really going to deemphasize health care, it’s going to get harder to win those people over on the issue. Romney has sketched out a few ideas on health reform in the past. But he seems to be mostly gambling — as he has on multiple other issues — that all he has to do is criticize Obama and pledge to move to repeal Obamacare on day one of his presidency, without offering any meaningful alternative to it, and that this will be enough.
But look at this striking number from the Post/ABC poll: Among people who see the Supreme Court ruling unfavorably, less than half, or 45 percent, view Romney’s approach in a positive light. As ABC News polling director Gary Langer put it,, even those who wanted Obamacare ruled unconstitutional are not flocking to Romney “as an alternative.”
The National Journal story says that the Romney camp is avoiding health care as an issue partly because Romney’s individual mandate makes it impossible for him to echo the GOP message that Obamacare’s mandate is a tax increase. As Evan McMorris Santoro notes, this messaging train wreck is even starting to make some GOP strategists squirm. The broader story may be that for all of Obamacare’s unpopularity with the public, Romney is proving exactly the wrong candidate to exploit it.