A new poll shows President Obama and his rival Mitt Romney virtually tied on health care issues. The poll of likely voters, conducted by Politico and Washington University, shows that President Obama has a small edge on Mitt Romney, with 48 percent ranking Obama better on health care issues versus 45 percent for Romney. That's within the margin of error, however, and Romney has a razor thin overall lead, with 48 percent of voters saying they would pick the former Massachusetts governor and 47 percent favoring Obama.
Politico provides analysis of the poll from both Republicans and Democrats, and it's about what you'd expect from a survey showing such close results. The Republican analysts happily declare that the GOP has united around Romney and warn that "there are warning signs throughout the data for President Obama that would be significant for any incumbent President," while the Democrats insist that "the President's personal popularity is unparelleled." Good news for everyone, right?
Or maybe it's not-so-great news for both, especially on health care. And if anything, on that front, it's probably worse for Romney. Granted, it shows once again that President Obama has not yet been able to seal the deal on his signature piece of legislation. No, it's not a great success. But given the consistently dismal poll results surrounding the law, a slight lead, even within the margin of error, is actually a decent showing relative to other polls on the issue.
That's not the case for Romney. What this poll shows is that the former governor has not been able to press what would seem to be the Republican party's natural advantage on health care. In the two years since ObamaCare's passage, polls have consistently shown the law to be subbornly unpopular. About two thirds of the public opposes the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. Roughly half say they want to see the entire law repealed. Yet on health issues, Romney, the candidate who says he wants to repeal the most significant health law in decades, is trailing Obama, the president who passed it. At this point in the election pre-season, the Republican candidate ought to have a lead over Obama on health care issues. But Romney's starting a position of weakness.
This is exactly what many warned would happen should Romney, whose Massachusetts health plan served as the model for Obama's law, become the nominee. In recent weeks a number of Democrats have warned that the health law may be a liability for the party in November. But thanks to Mitt Romney, it may not be a liability that Republicans can use to their advantage.