GOP pollster: Healthcare distracts Dems

The economy remains atop voters' minds, and Democrats' focus on healthcare means the majority is neglecting a key issue with the electorate, according to a prominent Republican pollster.

In a memo to House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn BoehnerSudan sanctions spur intense lobbying OPINION | GOP's 7-year ObamaCare blood oath ends in failure A simple fix to encourage bipartisanship in the House MORE (R-Ohio), to be distributed to the House Republican Conference this week, GOP pollster David Winston writes 37 percent of voters say jobs and the economy remain their most important issue, while 20 percent say healthcare tops the list.

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That tracks other polls that have also showed the economy topping the charts. A recent CBS News poll, conducted Oct. 5-8, shows 45 percent of Americans calling jobs and the economy the top issue, with 20 percent citing healthcare. Still, those numbers are down from earlier this year, when a majority of voters picked jobs and the economy, dwarfing every other issue.

"Yet as jobs reports continue to be grim and as Americans question whether the stimulus has worked, the president and congressional Democrats remain focused on health insurance reform rather than the economy," Winston wrote.

And with the unemployment rate continuing to rise, President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaOvernight Regulation: Trump administration reveals first regulatory agenda | GOP lawmakers introduce measures to repeal arbitration rule | Exxon gets M fine for sanctions violation Mounting nationwide immigration enforcement costs 20 attorneys general urge DeVos to keep college sexual assault protections MORE's approval rating has dropped seven points since June.

Meanwhile, the survey found some troubling news for Democrats, who hope a growing economy will help them by making the economic stimulus measure an electoral winner. According to the poll, 56 percent of registered voters say the economy is not in recovery until jobs are being created.

Most economists believe the unemployment rate, which stands at 9.8 percent, will not come down until sometime next year. Voters agree with BoehnerJohn BoehnerSudan sanctions spur intense lobbying OPINION | GOP's 7-year ObamaCare blood oath ends in failure A simple fix to encourage bipartisanship in the House MORE, by a 54 percent to 38 percent margin, that the unemployment rate shows the economic stimulus plan is not working.

Even as the healthcare debate dominates headlines, Winston said, Republicans should press for an advantage on the economy.

"Americans want to see solutions that will improve the economy and are not convinced that Democratic stimulus policies have worked. This provides congressional Republicans with the important opportunity to offer their ideas in a comprehensive and cohesive way on the issue voters feel is most pressing — the economy/jobs," he wrote.

Though attention may be focused on the healthcare debate, Democratic strategists have not been lulled into a false sense of security over what will dominate voters' attitudes next year.

In an interview with The Hill earlier this week, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, admitted that the unemployment rate has been a lagging indicator.

"The trends are still [moving] in the right direction. If you were to see a reversal in the current trends, that could spell trouble," Van Hollen said. But, he said, the stimulus has "undeniably prevented things from getting a lot worse."