Republicans try to beat Democrats at their own game on inequality

The fact that Republicans have entered the ring in the fight over economic equality, rather than avoiding or brushing off the topic, is understandable considering that voters strongly favor policies that help the poor. In a December Washington Post/ABC poll, 57 percent of respondents said they wanted the federal government to pursue policies that try to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.

With Obamacare still struggling, Republicans have every reason to tie the debate over income inequality to health care. Party leaders have argued that the law could hurt small businesses and lead to fewer full-time jobs. And the law is as unpopular as ever, according to a CNN/ORC survey in which 62 percent of respondents said they opposed the law. Health-care reform was the most commonly cited issue in a poll asking Americans which problems the government needs to work on in 2014, mentioned by the majority of participants in an AP-NORC poll.

While Republicans try to appeal to the lower middle class on health care, Democrats are countering with an emphasis on the federal minimum wage, sponsoring House and Senate versions of a bill that would raise the wage to $11 over two years. Nearly two-thirds of the Washington Post/ABC poll’s respondents supported raising the federal minimum wage, and Republicans have widely opposed such a move. Rubio maintained that this would not help the poor in the long-term, calling a raise in the minimum wage “at best only a partial solution” in his Wednesday speech.