The White House won big at the Supreme Court yesterday. At The Corner, Wesley Smith worries that will make ObamaCare more popular in the next couple of months:
Sure, opponents who care a lot about the constitutionality and policy propriety of the ACA are very upset and motivated to defeat the president. But they already were. For the relatively uninvolved, the message of the Roberts ruling, despite the justice’s protests to the contrary, is that Obamacare is A-okay. That will increase the law’s popularity — just as Roe v. Wade did with abortion. Alas.
I warned about that earlier this week, but I’m less concerned about it now. The conclusion of the controlling opinion in the case makes it clear that ObamaCare is a massive tax, an argument conservatives have made all along. Had the court upheld the bill on Commerce Clause grounds, it would have been much cleaner politically for the White House. In that context, I do expect to see a little movement on ObamaCare’s popularity, but not much — and since the mandate itself remains in place, and it was the most unpopular part of the bill even before the court called it a massive tax, I don’t think that the improvement is likely to be significant.
We can get a signal from Team Obama on whether they think the court decision was a boon for their campaign. Do they plan to make ObamaCare a major theme in the election? To quote our illustrious President’s Twitter feed, hell no:
On Thursday, the Court upheld the law, albeit with some substantial revisions. And, as promised, Obama appeared on TV two hours later. He conceded that his signature achievement was not especially popular—“I didn’t do this because it was good politics,” he said—and right away sought to assure voters that the Court has closed the book. “If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.” His message seemed aimed especially at those fatigued voters. Obama promised not to “refight the political battles of two years ago.… Now’s the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work.”
One participant in the Plouffe meeting who asked not to be identified has a name for this strategy. “The White House was giving health care the Heisman,” the strategist says, referring to the iconic statue given to college football’s best player, depicting a ball carrier fending off a defender with an extended stiff arm while he runs forward. Thursday made the Heisman metaphor even more fitting: Obama’s focus has long been on the quiet implementation of the health care law. He’s downplayed it rhetorically almost since he signed it—knowing the political cost of pursuing it while recessionary fires continued to burn.
Time will tell if the decision helps Mitt Romney by reigniting the Tea Party on his behalf in this election. Matthew Continetti believes it will, calling it the Tea Party’s Roe:
Obama is wrong. The health care battle is not settled. On the contrary: Justice Roberts’s opinion has airlifted the combatants to a different battlefield altogether. By affirming the individual mandate not on the grounds of the Commerce Clause but the congressional power to tax, Roberts has, intentionally or not, exposed the president as a liar, and as willing to raise taxes on middle class. …
Obamacare since its inception has spurred conservatism. The reaction against the bill was furious, and activated millions of Americans who had not been involved before in electoral politics. The town-hall meetings that erupted into protests in 2009, the Taxpayer March on Washington on September 12 of that year, Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally in August 2010—they were all preludes to the incredible Republican “shellacking” of Democrats in the midterm elections. The importance of the health care overhaul in the Republican victory was evident when the first non-appropriations bill passed by this House repealed Obamacare. The intervening debates over the debt ceiling, and the ridiculous intramural squabble of the GOP primary, deflected attention from Nancy Pelosi’s “crown jewel.”
That is no longer the case. First Obamacare’s contraception mandate mobilized churches and churchgoing Catholics and pro-lifers and other friends of religious liberty against the incumbent. Then came Thursday. Roberts’s ruling in NFIB et al v.Sebelius may be seen in retrospect as the Tea Party’s Roe v. Wade, an act of judicial folly that functions as a rallying point for all those who believe the powers of the federal government are not unlimited and that the job of government is to secure our natural rights, not provide for our every material need. Like Roe, Sebelius is only the beginning of a fight that will operate for years on the executive, judicial, and legislative branches and at all levels of government.
It is up to Romney, Republicans, and the Tea Party to remind Obama, the Democrats, and the progressives that just as there are no final victories in politics, there are no final defeats. Ignore the president. Romney needs to refight and re-litigate Obamacare, and he needs to do it now.
After striking a quick Heisman pose, though, Team Obama seems very uninterested in lingering on this subject in the election. That’s almost certainly a wise decision on their part, but it’s not going to make people forget about it, and it certainly won’t help people change their minds on ObamaCare, either.
Update: Survey USA conducted three statewide polls overnight of likely voters on the Supreme Court decision to see if it would move the needle. So far, the results look pretty poor for Obama.
- California – In one of the liberal bastions of Obama’s support, 45% disagreed with the Court ruling that ObamaCare is constitutional, with 44% agreeing. Nearly three-quarters expect their health care to get worse (38%) or stay the same (34%), as opposed to just 23% who expect it to improve now that ObamaCare will be implemented. And this is thebest results of the three states.
- Kansas – Romney’s going to win Kansas anyway, but the numbers here are still bad news for Obama’s hopes in the Midwest. 52% disagree with the court, as opposed to only 38% who agree, with 48% expecting their health care to get worse as a result. Only 16% think it will improve.
- Florida – This state actually matters, and it looks bad for Obama here, too. Voters disagree with the court 50/39, 47% expect their health care to get worse while only 20% expect it to improve, and 51% think it will get more expensive, too. Only 6% of Florida seniors expect health-care costs to decline, while 44% expect costs to rise.