GOP sees fertile political ground in healthcare debate

Republicans see potentially fertile political ground in the debate over healthcare, judging by polling they have conducted about policies and messages in the reform battle raging in Congress.

Elements of the Obama administration's proposal to reform healthcare is being met with increasing skepticism from voters, according to an Republican National Committee (RNC) poll conducted by OnMessage.

Among key findings were that 50 percent of voters either somewhat or strongly disagreed with the Obama administration's argument that creating a public (or "government-run") insurance option for consumers would bring down healthcare costs. 38 percent somewhat or strongly agreed.

Republicans see concerns over the plan's costs and effects as driving down enthusiasm for the program, with little appetite for new taxes or cuts in existing programs like Medicare to finance the program.

The strategic foothold comes as healthcare reform has started to become mired in disputes between the House and Senate -- and committees within each chamber -- over how a final deal should be structured, as well as how it should be financed.

And while the RNC found that there is a strong consensus on the need for healthcare reform, the GOP is arguing that cost, not access, is driving the national appetite for healthcare reform.

The poll, conducted June 15-17 but released to reporters on Monday, has a 2.95 percent margin of error. The poll respondents were 42 percent Democratic, 34 percent Republican, and 22 percent independent. The poll, as well as memos based on the poll, have been distributed to members of Congress and party officials in states across the country.