DETROIT -- While opposing the Affordable Care Act, Republicans must offer an alternative, GOP strategist Karl Rove told the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday.
"We're really good at describing what's wrong with 'Obamacare,' " Rove said. "But there's one thing that we're lousy at and we need to get better at and that is describing what we are for."
Rove delivered a detailed critique of the legislation, saying it will explode the federal deficit and cause employers to convert full-time employees to part-time and still leave 30 million Americans without health insurance.
Rove, a political consultant who was a senior adviser to former President George W. Bush, said 60% of independent voters oppose the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
Independents also favor Republicans over Democrats on issues such as budget deficits and job creation, Rove said.
"Independents right now think and act like us," he said.
But health care is a critical issue to independents and all voters and Republicans must talk about what they are for while tearing Obamacare down, Rove said.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, considered a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016, told the same luncheon meeting at the Mackinac Island conference that the party needs to talk about issues that are more relevant to average voters.
Republicans should emphasize education and jobs, not fiscal cliffs and sequesters, Walker said.
He also called for a message of optimism and said Republicans need to have the courage of their convictions to do what they say they will do.
Walker, governor since 2011, fought back a 2012 recall effort after he backed legislation that restricted the collective bargaining rights of public employees. The legislation sparked protests that included an occupation of the state Capitol in Madison in early 2011.
Walker said the media and others are often dismissive of Republicans on the public education issue, but he said important reforms have been made in Wisconsin by changing the system so teacher merit is favored over seniority.
He said as much as Republicans want changes federally, real change happens at the state level. He credited Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder with improving the state's business climate and state finances by putting about $500 million aside in the state's Rainy Day Fund.
Similarly, welfare reform started at the state level through Republican Govs. John Engler in Michigan and Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Walker said.
Other possible 2016 presidential contenders speaking at the Republican conference are Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John Thune of South Dakota and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press