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Long IslandPolitics

Health care law still GOP campaign issue

William Temple, of Brunswick, Ga., waits outside the

William Temple, of Brunswick, Ga., waits outside the Supreme Court for a landmark decision on health care in Washington. (June 28, 2012) Credit: AP

Washington - Since the Supreme Court's surprise ruling for President Barack Obama's health care law on Thursday, top Democrats have said it's time to talk about jobs, the economy and just about anything other than their now legally vindicated achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

But Republicans can't stop talking about the law they call "Obamacare" -- and how the court ruled that its penalty for not getting health insurance is actually a "tax."

That ironic twist in the aftermath of the landmark ruling, scored as a big Obama victory, stems from the fact the Republicans enjoy a political edge, for now, on the issue of the health care law, according to analysts and a new Gallup Poll released Friday.

A fifth of those surveyed said they'll vote based on a candidate's position on the health care law -- and the majority of those people oppose it, said the survey, taken after the ruling.

"There is a slight potential net advantage for the anti-health care-reform position at the ballot box stemming from Thursday's decision," Gallup pollster Lydia Saad said.

Overall, the law still fails to win support from more than half of Americans, and the split of those who support and oppose it continues to fall along partisan lines. That means that the only voters who might be swayed are independents.

In the long run, analysts said, the historic decision and the law itself may not be that much of a factor in the presidential and congressional elections.

"I don't think it's going to change the bottom line: It's about jobs and the overall economy," political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said.

But for July at least, Republicans said they'll focus on Obamacare, campaigning against it and holding a symbolic House vote to repeal it on July 11.

"Democrats' continued support for an unpopular law is going to be a campaign issue," said Nate Sillin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises money for GOP House candidates.

"The Supreme Court decision means the only way to stop this law is to defeat Democrats," he said.

Republican strategists said they still see the health law as a potent issue, recalling how it helped elect Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and a House majority with a 51-member margin in 2010. And it fits into their attack on Democrats for what the GOP calls high taxes and big-government.

New York GOP chairman Ed Cox said Republican congressional candidates and Wendy Long, the challenger to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), will attack Obamacare as a new tax, even though they disagree with the court's decision to call it a tax.

"The Supreme Court said this is a tax, and Obama said he would not put a tax on the middle class," Cox said. "That's a huge campaign issue for us."

Democrats have hailed the court's ruling, but from Obama on down, they say its time to move on to other issues, especially jobs.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, does not list the health care law as a talking point for his House candidates.

"People do not want to move backwards and relitigate and repeal this law," he said. "They want to move ahead and rebuild the economy."

And despite Long's attack on the health law, Gillibrand won't focus on it, an aide said.

"Sen. Gillibrand isn't focused on what political points her opponent will attempt to score in the fall," spokesman Glen Caplin said. "She is focused on fighting hard for New Yorkers."

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