Political Animal


July 03, 2012 11:35 AM Unknown Romney Health Plan Polls Poorly

By Ed Kilgore

Today we have a bit of fresh evidence of why Mitt Romney might not want to get into a sustained debate over health care policy, aside from all the obvious reasons involving his record in Massachusetts and his campaign’s belief that a narrow focus on economic indicators is the winning ticket. A new ABC/WaPo survey shows that his health care “plans” polls more poorly than Obama’s. While the favorable/unfavorable rating for the president’s approach is 45/48, Mitt’s comes in at 30/47. Among putative swing voters, neither candidate’s “plans” rate that well: Obama’s are rated at 38/52 by indies; Romney’s at 26/46. Among self-identified moderates, however, Obama’s health care approach gets into positive territory at 48/44, while Romney’s is panned 29/52.

What’s most interesting about these results, of course, is that Romney’s “plans” for health care policy are virtually unknown (or so I would assume, since he never talks about them; the ABC/WaPo poll provides no information as to content for either candidate’s “plans”), aside from not being Obama’s, and reflecting a vague “market-oriented” philosophy.

But something tells me that an extensive public airing of Romney’s actual proposals for health care policy might not exactly lift their popularity. Perhaps a state-by-state approach to covering the uninsured would be vaguely popular, but that might depend on where voters happen to live. Mitt’s professed commitment to restricting pre-existing condition exclusions will look less impressive once it becomes obvious he is essentially endorsing current law. Interstate health insurance sales won’t be a crowd-pleaser once people begin to understand that insurers would flock en masse to states that let them cherry-pick customers to their hearts’ delight. A proposed shift from tax incentives for employer-based coverage to individual coverage will likely frighten those happy with their existing insurance. The usual conservative health policy pet rocks like medical savings accounts and “tort reform” won’t move the needle any more than they have in the past.

And then there’s Romney’s embrace of the Ryan Budget, with its Medicare vouchers and Medicaid block grants. We already know this stuff doesn’t poll well.

The more basic reality is that Americans like most features of the Affordable Care Act other than the individual mandate, and that’s the one feature Romney can’t much attack.

So it’s no wonder he’s resisting the demands of conservatives that he turn his campaign into a holy war over health care policy. He’s in a bad position on this subject, which can probably only get worse.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on July 03, 2012 11:50 AM:

    I'm willing to wager that going forward it will be a rare public event where Romney and/or his VP pick (whoever or whatever it might end up being) will take questions from the press. He's rapidly getting to the point where he won't be able to take a position on anything without looking like a bigger fop than he already does.

  • Stetson Kennedy on July 03, 2012 11:53 AM:

    That's not entirely fair Ed, Romney has been pretty clear on what he wants - all the goodies of the ACA, without the mandate that pays for it all! Typical Republicanism, spend now, and push the costs don the road.

  • Daniel Kim on July 03, 2012 12:13 PM:

    I really wonder how many responses to these polls are made by people who have no actual information at all about the issue. There really needs to be a selection for "I don't know what you're talking about". Poll results will probably show that only about 15 to 20 percent of Americans can give an informed opinion.

  • schtick on July 03, 2012 12:21 PM:

    I can't wait to see all the restrictions the Willard camp puts on the debates, if they ever allow any.

  • Michael Robinson on July 03, 2012 12:22 PM:

    @Daniel Kim

    "Poll results will probably show that only about 15 to 20 percent of Americans can give an informed opinion."

    And they all watch the Daily Show.

    Unfortunately, the others still vote anyway, so we keep asking their opinion for the predictive value.

  • stormskies on July 03, 2012 12:28 PM:

    why not just use the frank luntz new slogan: "patient centered".........whatever the fuck that supposed to mean. get all the tea party zombies to start marching around with their signs of misspelled words ....patent cnterd .. that should do it for buffoon romney ...

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