A valuable counterpoint here is the experience of Sanford, whose extramarital affair and ensuing scandal caused him to leave office in early 2011 with dismal approval ratings and who at one point was running so far behind his Democrat opponent in his May special House election that he was written off for dead.
Yet rather than blur the issues distinction between himself and his opponent, Sanford reinforced it. He signed the IWV Obamacare Repeal Pledge and regularly drew contrasts between himself and his opponent on the issue in both his paid and earned media.
The fact that he had signed the Repeal Pledge allowed IWV to raise the funds necessary to launch a $250,000 education campaign, ensuring that likely voters in his congressional district understood just how liberal his opponent was.
A survey conducted for IWV in the immediate aftermath of that race revealed that the single biggest reason given by voters who voted for Sanford was that he had signed the Repeal Pledge, while his opponent, the sister of well-known TV personality Stephen Colbert, had refused to.
In any number of campaigns over the past two cycles — beginning in the January 2010 Senate special election in Massachusetts and continuing through a series of 2012 Senate races, and into the 2013 special House election in South Carolina — signing the IWV Repeal Pledge has been seen by voters not just as an indicator of a candidate’s seriousness about overturning Obamacare but as a larger marker about their opposition to government overreach and excessive intrusion. There’s simply no reason any candidate who opposes Obamacare should not sign it.
A mid-May poll for CNN/ORC shows that, 54 percent to 43 percent, a majority of adults nationwide oppose Obamacare. An April survey for the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll shows that a majority of adults nationwide, 53 percent to 33 percent, believe those opposed to Obamacare should “continue trying to change or stop it, so it has less impact on taxpayers, employers and health care providers.”
Obviously we’ll never know for sure whether, had Gomez signed the Repeal Pledge and made Obamacare a central point of differentiation between himself and his opponent, he would have won Tuesday’s contest. But we’re willing to bet he’d have at least run a lot closer to Markey than he did. And we’re willing to bet that if he fails to sign the Repeal Pledge and fails to make Obamacare — which by then will be headlong into complex, confusing, costly implementation — a major issue against Markey next year, he’ll end up losing again.
Heather R. Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice. Kellyanne Conway is president and CEO of the Polling Company Inc. and WomanTrend and a board member of Independent Women’s Forum.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., walks on Broadway after a Future Forum with young entrepreneurs in the Flatiron District of New York City, April 16, 2015. Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also attended.