A winning issue for Republicans • The Washington Times

With so much time spent and ink spilled over who will carry the banner for the GOP both in the presidential campaign and now for new House speaker, perhaps the real question is not who, but what is a winner. Some new survey data suggests an unorthodox issue might help Republicans attract voters who have been elusive to the center-right, and help the party re-establish its law-abiding, anti-crony moorings with its base.

Would you agree that women, young people, liberals and minorities have cost the GOP elections? Wouldn't it be worth noting an issue that has more than 70 percent support overall, and above 60 percent even among these groups largely sympathize with the left in presidential elections?

Some new survey data suggests that we have found one.

The polling company, inc./WomanTrend added questions on behalf of Independent Women's Voice to a nationwide omnibus survey of 1,015 American adults, conducted Oct. 1-4. The survey used live callers, and was composed of 50 percent landline interviews and 50 percent cellphone interviews.

You may recall that when Congress passed Obamacare, it required its members and their staffs to enroll in the health care exchanges just like any other American.

However, after Obamacare became law, members of Congress and their staffs were granted a special exemption from this requirement that does two things: It exempts some staff entirely, and it provides members and staff, regardless of income, with up to a 75 percent subsidy for their health insurance costs, something which would be illegal for any other American to receive or business to provide.

So we asked respondents if they thought that members of Congress and their staffs should be required to enroll in Obamacare?

A 70.7 percent majority of Americans say yes. Just 21.5 percent back the status quo of maintaining the congressional "special exemption" for Obamacare. A separate 6.8 percent volunteer that they do not know or are unsure, a relatively modest figure given how novel the information is. Americans instinctively recognize this special exemption is an unfair deal.

Even self-identified Democrats (68 percent to 23 percent) agree that Capitol Hill should apply the law as written, joining Independents (72 percent to 20 percent) and Republicans (77 percent to 19 percent) in decisive tripartisan agreement. Add to that strong support among women (70 percent to 23 percent), Hispanics (68 percent to 28 percent), African-Americans (63 percent to 26 percent) and liberals (62 percent to 28 percent), and a winning issue begins to emerge. As for conservatives for whom the GOP is no longer sufficiently conservative, they favor of revoking the exemption 80 percent to 17 percent.

Our questions show an opportunity for the next speaker of the House.

We asked: "Even after having won majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate, Republicans have not repealed Congress' special exemption from Obamacare. How important is it to you that a criterion for the next Speaker of the House be that he promises to bring legislation to revoke Congress' special exemption from Obamacare as one of his first acts?"

Roughly 7 in 10 Americans (71.3 percent) think that it is either "very" or "somewhat" important that outgoing Speaker John Boehner's successor remove this accommodation (versus 23.8 percent who consider it "just a little bit" or "not at all" important).

There is a striking intensity gap, as nearly half of all adults (47.5 percent) say it is "very important" to remove Congress' escape clause from Obamacare, compared to just 13.5 percent who view it as "not at all important." Clearly, Americans are emphatic about ending the ultimate crony carve-out.

Self-identified Republicans (78.0 percent) are especially likely to consider revoking the special exemption an "important" criterion for their next speaker of the House, although majorities of Democrats (67.4 percent) and Independents (65.5 percent) also share this view.

So will this be the driving issue to determine who becomes the next speaker? No. We have no illusions this — or any — issue will be what decides who is speaker. Right now there's much dealing, but it's largely over procedures and promised positions.

But once in place, it would be smart politics and sound policy for the new leadership to finally act to revoke the special exemption, differentiating themselves from the D.C. insider favoritism that is frustrating Americans of all political stripes, and fueling support for those perceived as "outsiders."

Ending the special exemption would also be in the self-interest of members who hope to be re-elected.

We know this because we also asked: "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports ending the congressional exemption from Obamacare?"

A 58.4 percent majority of those surveyed — with majorities across the political spectrum — say they are "more likely" to vote for a candidate who would end the special exemption (versus 19.4 percent who are "less likely").

This represents a 3-to-1 and a net positive-39 differential in political currency, suggesting it may help "move the needle" for officeholders seeking to connect with voters.

Republicans in the House must decide whether to use this moment to restore credibility with the American public. Ending the type of special exemptions that have earned Congress its 16 percent approval rating and living under the law they imposed on everyone else is a great way to start.

Kellyanne Conway is the president and CEO of the polling company/WomanTrend. Heather Higgins runs Independent Women's Voice.

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