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GOP voters respond positively to idea of universal health care
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Monday August 6, 2007

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When Fox News asked on Monday "Who came out ahead?" at the GOP debate in Des Moines, Republican pollster and consultant Frank Luntz answered that the participant who "surprised voters the most" was second-tier candidate Mike Huckabee.

Luntz monitored the responses of 29 Republican voters on a moment-by-moment basis throughout the debate and found that "Mike Huckabee in his communication, in the language that he used, took voters who for the most part had never even heard of him and turned them into Huckabee supporters." Luntz highlighted in particular how his electronic graphs "climb when Mike Huckabee talks about the changes that are needed to American health care."

"If you want to know how to fix it, I've got a solution," Huckabee said at the debate. "Either give every American the same kind of healthcare that Congress has or make Congress have the same kind of health care that every American has." As he spoke, the electronic graphs rose dramatically for both moderate and conservative Republicans, from a neutral reading of 50 into the 80's.

"Health care is an issue that transcends politics and transcends ideology," commented Luntz. "Democrats are more willing to support universal care. Republicans are still focused on the free market system. But when Huckabee talked about giving health care, the same benefits, to the average American that Congress has, that really scores."

Last May, Huckabee criticized Michael Moore's Sicko and even took a cheap shot at Moore's weight, saying, "Frankly, Michael Moore is an example of why the health care system costs so much in this country. He clearly is one of the reasons that we have a very expensive system."

However, a week ago, Huckabee wrote to Moore, suggesting they meet to find "common ground" and saying, "The two of us may have something in common: a passion for reforming the health care system in America ... While I respect your efforts to call attention the health care crisis in this country in your movie 'Sicko,' I feel that your view that all would be improved with free universal and government provided health care is simplistic."

The system enjoyed by Congress under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which Huckabee invoked at the debate, involves the government negotiating contracts with private health plans and covering up to 75% of the premiums for those enrolled.

Luntz concluded the segment by showing the members of his focus group describing Huckabee as "honest" and "refreshing" and said that he has a real chance to break out of the second tier.

The following video is from Fox's Fox & Friends, broadcast on August 6.