When the Supreme Court Strikes Down Obamacare, Will it Help Obama or Romney?

(Second in a series of posts interpreting momentous issues through the prism of the presidential election.)

Anthony Kennedy

The only vote that matters

At first glance, the answer seems obvious.  If the Supreme Court overturns Obama’s signature legislative “achievement,” surely that hurts Obama and helps his opponent.

But what about the fact that most Americans — 56% to 39% in a recent pollwant the legislation to go away?

James Carville today bravely argued that an overturn “will be the best thing that ever happen to the Democratic party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably… and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future.”  He also said, twice, “I honestly believe this, this is not spin,” leading Alana Goodman to headline her Commentary blog post, “Dems Spinning Possible Health Care Loss.” Ross Douthat has a rather unlikely theory about how an overturn could help Obama: “setting a clear limit on liberalism’s ability to micromanage Americans’ private decisions might make voters feel more comfortable voting to re-elect their micromanager-in-chief.”  Not Douthat’s best effort.

Goodman also points to a potential silver lining for Republicans the verdict goes the other way:  “if ObamaCare is upheld, the only way for Americans to get rid of the unpopular law may be to vote Republican – but it’s a stretch to say that would be the best possible scenario for the GOP.”

We’ll never know, because it seems clear that the law will be overturned.  The only vote that has ever been in doubt is that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and I think we can discern his opinion from his remarks from the bench: “But the reason, the reason this is concerning, is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act… and that is different from what we have in previous cases and that changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way.”  Why yes… yes it does!

In addition to all this, I think an overturn will help Romney by neutralizing his biggest handicap as the nominee:  the fact that he signed a healthcare bill in Massachusetts that also included an individual mandate.  If the Supreme Court lets the law stand, Romney is going to have to spend a lot of time making fairly subtle distinctions between Obamacare and Romneycare.  There’s the federalism argument: it’s one thing for a state to mandate something, quite another for the federal government to do so.  But anybody who cares about federalism is already a Republican anyway.

Romney’s stronger argument is the fact that Obamacare was foisted on an unwilling public without a single Republican vote, whereas Romneycare had bipartisan support.  This argument actually gets bolstered by an overturn.  “Remember how they passed this legislation? Votes in the middle of the night on a 2,700-page bill that wasn’t even fully collated yet? Remember deem-and-pass?  Americans knew that was wrong, and they promptly swept a lot of Democrats out of office.  Now the Supreme Court has thrown it out, and all that remains is to give a new president an opportunity to reach across the aisle and find healthcare solutions that Americans can support.”

Advantage: Romney.

4 thoughts on “When the Supreme Court Strikes Down Obamacare, Will it Help Obama or Romney?

  1. Oh, come on. The healthcare bill was a compromise that modeled Republican plans including Romney’s and left behind Democratic ideals. Anyone with a brain knows that leaving behind 1) single payer and 2) gov’t owned facilities like 1) Medicare and 2) the VA, respectively, wasn’t giving us more choice, which was the hypocrisy sold by the Repubs, but less. Given a chance to propose a plan, the Repubs demurred.

    They fought even this plan as a leverage ploy against Obama, but given they are fighting the only solution they ever had, they now have none to offer. The plan was passed in an environment that was 75% for reduction of healthcare cost as the biggest priority facing Obama, it wasn’t foisted on an unwilling public.

    Moving forward, whatever decision the Supreme Court makes, it is not a presidential, public or a legislative move and it doesn’t bind any of their hands.

    I don’t see much happening if it is upheld, it will be Reds voting for Reds who would have voted for Reds anyway. If it is overturned, you’ve got Repubs having to run on why people’s young adult children aren’t getting healthcare anymore, and not having any solution that will satisfy the TP’ers. In the meantime, Dems are energized to change the Congress as well to re-legislate.

    Romney’s biggest problem isn’t Romneycare, it’s that the ideology wars have waxed him in opinion polls with women and Hispanics. He’s losing Florida and Ohio badly.

    He’s losing but within reach in PA because it’s Philly and Piitsburg separated by Alabama, and the bad economy is worse for Obama and the social BS is neutral for Romney there.

    So what if the healthcare law is unconstitutional, it should be legislated. Anyone with a brain knows that you need 100% subscription to work the costs out of healthcare. To choose or otherwise have none is the denial of a civil right, and puts people into costlier and inefficient public facilities for emergency care only. Romney once had a brain and did the right thing. He should be the Democratic president now, except for his arbitrary party choice as governor of MA.

  2. Dan, the fact that some Republican somewhere once suggested something that looks like Obamacare does not make Obamacare a “compromise” when it was passed without a single Republican vote. Nor does the fact that some Democrats wanted to go even further and institute single-payer.

    Do you have a link for that 75% figure you cite? Because I remember “jobs” as being the biggest issue, then and now. And if Obamacare wasn’t “foisted on an unwilling public,” how do you explain the fact that Democrats went on to suffer the worst mid-term loss in more than seven decades? Here’s a good description of the election: http://blogs.reuters.com/james-pethokoukis/2010/11/03/obamanomics-to-blame-for-historic-democratic-midterm-collapse/

    • It wasn’t just some Republican somewhere, it was Republican healthcare policy at the time.

      It was a compromise, final vote or not, because the Dems had backed off of the single-payer provision to try to satisfy Repubs.

      A midterm loss after a Presidential win is pretty common for a lot of reasons: re-energized opposition base and using up political capital executing the office.

      Anyway, getting back to the point, Romneycare is Romney’s political liability only with the Repubs, and he’ll have the nomination. Sick though isn’t it that he gets roasted for having implemented groundbreaking Repub policy, back when they had an interest in actually governing through the healthcare problem.

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