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Exclusive: Republicans ready messaging campaign aimed at women

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republican party officials are putting together a new election year messaging campaign to reach women voters on issues including Obamacare, jobs and education as they seek to gain an advantage in the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

About three weeks of internal polling and focus group research has identified jobs and household finances as the most important issues among 1,206 likely women voters, according to the Republican National Committee, which commissioned the surveys along with the National Republican Congressional Campaign.

Party officials said Obamacare was also a top issue, with 55 percent of women polled opposing President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy and 43 percent voicing strong opposition.

The findings show far more opposition than independent public opinion polls, including a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll that showed 43 percent of women and 48 percent of men opposed to Obamacare in May.

The research identified the phrase "start over" as a message that resonated with many women on Obamacare. The Republicans have been seeking to bridge the gap between loyal voters who want the healthcare law thrown out and those who favor retaining its consumer protections as part of a different reform environment.

A CNN/ORC International poll last month showed that 61 percent of Americans want Congress to leave the Affordable Care Act alone or make some changes to the law in an attempt to make it work better. Thirty-eight percent said the law should be either repealed or repealed and replaced with a completely different system.

The research, intended to help craft Republican campaign messages for the summer and autumn, comes as analysts say tightening races in Louisiana, North Carolina and other key states have highlighted the importance of attracting swing voters.

In a separate but related RNC messaging effort, since mid-April, more than 15,000 Republican campaign workers armed with special cellphone apps have been surveying suburban women under age 40 in about 20 states about their views on Obamacare and other issues and logging their responses.

Party officials say the goal is to develop messages that can capture the support of women and other swing voters in selected federal and state races, including the U.S. Senate contests in Arkansas and Michigan.

Women will probably represent about 53 percent of November's voters and they tend to be more policy-oriented than men. In earlier surveys, women have ranked healthcare highly as a campaign issue - a close second to the economy, according to data provided by the Republican National Senatorial Committee.

Republicans have struggled to attract female voters since the 1980s and face a spirited Democratic campaign that seeks to portray Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a policy that make insurance affordable for low-income women and eliminates charges for preventive care, including contraceptives and mammograms.

Party officials and pollsters declined to provide demographic data about the women included in the research.

But Republican strategists have emphasized the need to reach white suburban women, who picked Mitt Romney over Obama by 14 percentage points in the 2012 presidential election and are now seen as more likely to oppose Obamacare.

(Additional reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; editing by Caren Bohan and G Crosse)

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