Conservative interest in the presidential election hit “stratospheric levels” following last week’s Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare, noted pollster and author Scott Rasmussen tells Newsmax.TV.
“All that did was energize conservatives,” declared Rasmussen in an exclusive interview on Monday. “The conservative interest in the election was already much higher than that of moderates and liberals. It went up to really stratospheric levels right after the ruling. We don’t know if that will continue or if it’s just a temporary response to the news cycle.”
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Most importantly, he said, Republicans have to make the case that the unpopular Obamacare will be a further drain on America’s disappointing economic recovery since the economy still tops the list of voter concerns.
“Anything that can be tied to the economy is going to be an important part of the debate,” observed Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports. “If Mitt Romney and the Republicans are able to make the case that the healthcare law is one reason the economy is struggling, well that will certainly help.”
He said the same goes for energy — and in fact all issues. “If they can tie energy into the economy being sluggish, that will help the Republicans,” explained Rasmussen. “On the other hand, if Barack Obama is able to say ‘no, the healthcare is really a separate issue’ then it won’t play much of a role at all. It is first and foremost how people are feeling about the economy and every other issue matters only so long as it affects the economy.”
More than half of the country — 52 percent of American voters — believe that Obamacare should be repealed.
“That number hasn’t changed much over the past week. In fact, it hasn’t changed much over the past two years,” said Rasmussen, who is the author of the book, “The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt."
“From the day the law was passed, a majority of American voters have said we want to see it repealed. And there’s really not much that would change that,” he said. “The support has been so consistent.”
Since the healthcare law has been so unpopular among voters, Rasmussen will be watching to see if Democrats go along with a largely symbolic measure to repeal Obamacare in the House.
“Now as for that vote next week, while people were calling it symbolic, one of the interesting things to watch will be how many Democratic congressmen will sign on and support the repeal,” Rasmussen said. “There will probably be a fair number of Democratic members of Congress who are too afraid for their own future to vote in support of the healthcare law.”
But it’s not a question of reigniting the political fight over the president’s signature legislation.
“The Democrats in Congress passed it despite popular opposition. They continued to believe that somehow it would get popular over time. It didn’t,” he said. “This is not a question of re-litigating or re-debating the healthcare law. That is over. The question is now whether the government will respond to a majority of voters or it will continue to move on its own direction.”
He predicted that there is virtually no chance the healthcare law will survive if GOP nominee Romney wins the election.
“And if President Obama is somehow re-elected this fall, and brings in Democrats with him to control the Senate, the law will still be in trouble,” predicted Rasmussen. “It is simply unpopular with voters and that will call for some major change.”
Even the Supreme Court’s popularity appears to have taken a hit by its handling of the Obamacare case.
“Well, not surprisingly, since most Americans wanted to see the healthcare law overturned, they’re not thrilled with the Supreme Court,” said Rasmussen.
“Before the ruling, 36 percent said the court was doing a good job, 17 percent said poor. Both numbers have slipped a lot: 33 percent say they’re doing a good job, now; 28 percent, poor,” he explained. “They’re in the growing belief that the justices are pursuing their own agenda rather than being impartial and a growing belief that the court is too liberal rather than too conservative.”
Romney is in the “awkward position” for a politician of merely trying to avoid making mistakes, according to Rasmussen based on polling.
“Yes, he needs to outline what he might like to do. He needs to keep raising challenges to the president’s policies — economic policies, healthcare policies, energy policies,” Rasmussen explained. “But he can never pretend that the election is about him. It’s still about Barack Obama. Most people who are supporting Mitt Romney right now say this election is a choice of a lesser of two evils, but they will support him because they’d like to vote against Barack Obama.”
He added that most Americans “obviously” believe that the country is not better off than when President Obama took office.
“But if we ask about individual finances 33 percent right now say their own finances are in good or excellent shape, that’s down from 37 percent four years ago,” he explained. “It’s down from 35 percent the day President Obama took office. If that number does not improve — if people aren’t feeling better about their own personal finances by election day — President Obama will not be re-elected.”
In key U.S. Senate races, Rasmussen offered these assessments:
- Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is struggling to get above the 50 percent mark. “For an incumbent, that’s a little bit of a concern. I think Nelson’s bigger concern is having Barack Obama at the head of the ticket,” Rasmussen said. “So for Nelson to keep his job, Barack Obama needs to remain competitive. Nelson is still the slight favorite, but a big Romney victory in Florida could change that.”
- Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown is “dead even” with Democrat Elizabeth Warren. “If it were a choice between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren I think Scott Brown would win, but if it’s a choice between who controls the US Senate, Republicans or Democrats, then Warren will win. It is still a Democratic-leaning state.”
- Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill is vulnerable is Missouri. “In fact we have her down, significantly, to each of the Republican competitors. She is a decided underdog,” he said. “The Obama campaign is not going to put forth a serious effort to try and pick up that state this time around, if he was to sense the mood in Missouri. Among all the incumbent senators out there, Claire McCaskill is the one most closely tied to the Obama administration.”
- Democrat incumbent Jon Tester’s race in Montana is still too close to call against Republican Denny Rehberg. “These are two guys who have held office statewide. They’re both very well known,” according to Rasmussen. “It is one of the races that you can’t call right now and the way that it goes will determine control of the US Senate.”
- Virginia’s Senate race is also too close to call between Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and Republican fellow former governor George Allen. “Both men are well known in the state,” said Rasmussen. “I believe that whichever party wins Virginia in the presidential race — whichever party walks away with those Electoral College votes — will also walk away with that Senate seat.”
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