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Will This Be a ‘Seinfeld Election’?

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The mid-term congressional election is less than two months away, and one publication is describing the upcoming event as a “Seinfeld election.” That’s “Seinfeld,” after the TV show that famously was all about nothing.

The Christian Science Monitor coined the term “Seinfeld election” in a recent commentary, noting that the 2014 election for Congress is shaping up to be not much about anything in particular. Even the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not a compelling enough reason for voters to go to the polls, according to the Monitor.

The Kaiser Family Foundation agrees with the part about health care not playing much of a role come Nov. 4. A Kaiser poll found that jobs and the economy are top of mind with voters this fall. Health care drags far behind, with only 3 percent of voters naming ACA as the issue most likely to determine their vote.

Health care is even less important to independent voters, those who frequently decide close races. While Democrats and Republicans both chose health care as their second ranked issues with 15 and 16 percent respectively, independents’ rank of health care tied for fifth with 9 percent.

The issue is, however, playing a role in some campaigns, particularly in key swing states where control of the U.S. Senate is at stake. Republicans need to capture a net gain of six seats to gain a majority in the Senate.

Forty-eight percent of registered voters said they are “tired of hearing candidates for Congress talk about the health care law” and think they should move on to other issues, while 47 percent say the health care debate is important and should continue. More than 60 percent of Republicans favor keeping the debate going. About the same percentage of Democrats say candidates should move on, and independents are evenly split.

Republicans voters say they are more eager to go the polls than are Democrats this fall. But apparently the health law isn’t driving that enthusiasm to any great degree. When Republicans who said they were eager to vote were asked why, 13 percent said they want to give their party control of the Senate and 10 percent said they want to get rid of incumbents. The health law? That issue was named by only 3 percent.

“More often than not, they don’t like [the law],” said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “But they think this has already been litigated, this thing’s not going to get repealed anytime soon, and so let’s move on and start working to fix it.”

Republican strategists are telling their candidates that they’ve “milked the health care cow for all there is,” and that they need to be about something other than the party attacking health care reform, Cook said.

Kaiser polls have shown that public opinion of the ACA has been holding steady over the past four years. In a poll conducted this month, 47 percent of Americans view the law unfavorably, versus 35 percent with a favorable view. The favorable number has been greater than the unfavorable only a few times since April 2010, the month after the ACA was signed into law.

A majority of Americans – 63 percent – want their member of Congress to work to improve the law, compared with 33 percent who want their member to vote to repeal the law and replace it with something else.

“Clearly, it’s not top of mind for most voters, and it’s not driving their interest in this election,” said Mollyann Brodie, director of survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But it’s certainly a part of the campaign season, and for that reason alone, it’s important for us to be discussing its role.”

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Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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