Republicans think they have a winning formula in running against the president's signature legislative achievement, passage of the Affordable Care Act. But party leaders in the House may be inviting the disdain of independent voters if they push forward with a meaningless repeal effort next week.
Following the 5-4 Supreme Court vote declaring the bulk of the law constitutional, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced plans for the Republican-controlled House to vote July 11 on a repeal bill. With the Democrats in control of the Senate, this is an empty gesture. It will repeat the repeal vote Republicans took in January 2011 after taking control of the House.
In case anyone missed it, Rep. Cantor wants to make sure voters understand that Republicans really, truly, cross their hearts and hope to die, want to repeal the health care law. But unaffiliated voters, who will decide the presidential election and many close congressional races, may see it as evidence of party that can't seem to move off one issue. Lose in the legislature; lose in the Supreme Court, then take another vote, while offering no alternative.
Voters want focus on job creation and speeding up the lackluster recovery. Republicans are doing the president and Democrats a favor the longer they insist on rehashing the health care debate. The base may love it, but it will not win many converts and may send a few in the other direction.
Go ahead and make repeal of health care a major campaign plank. But stop the symbolic votes and posturing. And be forewarned about overplaying opposition to the ACA. A USA Today/Gallup Poll taken after the Supreme Court vote found only 23 percent of independents favor repeal, while 41 percent favor keeping the law in place or repealing parts and 25 percent want the law to go further and expand government's role in health care.
Only 18 percent of independents answered that a candidate's views on health care will determine their vote, while 60 percent consider it one of just many determinant issues and 12 percent don't consider it a major issue.
Simply put, if Republican leaders think they will win over independent voters by taking a meaningless vote, they are wrong.