New Hampshire's Virtual Town Hall
By Paul Briand
Philosophically, the Supreme Court decision today upholding the notion of an individual mandate is a victory for President Obama as he seeks reelection in 2012.
But, politically, the court’s unanimous declaration of the mandate as a tax could hurt Obama in this embattled swing state.
Taxes are a sensitive issue in the Granite State. While the majority here tends to be socially progressive (a la same-sex marriage), there’s a tendency toward flintiness when it comes to taxes.
This is, after all, a state that has no sales or income tax, and an attempt to enshrine its no-tax status as a constitutional amendment will be on the November ballot.
So it begs the question of whether Obamacare, now cast as a tax, will hurt the president as he seeks to take the state’s four electoral votes over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. (Though, it must be noted, that the individual mandate in the health law that Romney championed as governor of Massachusetts includes a tax penalty for non-compliers.)
In general, the health care law isn’t a big hit in New Hampshire.
The latest accounting of New Hampshire voter opinion on issue was in April 2012.
A WMUR Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed 46 percent of voters opposing the health care law, 36 supporting it, and 18 percent saying they were neutral or didn’t know enough about it to decide.
In prior polls the numbers looked like this:
February 2012: 46 percent opposed, 39 percent in favor
October 2011: 52 percent opposed, 35 percent in favor
July 2011: 53 percent opposed, 33 percent in favor
As the survey center noted in April: “Support for the health care reform law is very weak among independents and Republicans. Two-thirds of Democrats (66%) favor the health care reform law, while only 21% of Independents and 8% of Republicans favor the legislation.”
That independent number is critical to the fortunes of candidates because of the roll that undeclared voters (who outnumber registered Republicans and Democrats) will play at the polls in November.
In February 2012, 24 percent of independents favored the law. In October 2011, 26 percent of independents favored it.
Will the 2012 election be decided on a single issue, such as health care? No.
But, everything else being equal, voters may decide on a candidate based on the health care issue.
Clearly, independent support for the law has been on the decline, and the notion of the individual mandate as a tax could further erode independent (and possibly some Democratic) support for Obama and possibly other candidates as well.
The race for the two seats in the U.S. House will surely have a health care component to them. And the notion of health care as having a tax component will surely be add a very partisan tone to that debate.
On Monday, an American Research Group poll showed the president received 51 percent support from those registered to vote in New Hampshire to Romney's 43 percent.
Adding a tax to the health care debate in the state could erode those numbers for Obama, even as he trumpets the overall benefits of the law.