Video: Why the White House should be afraid, very afraid, over the ObamaCare arguments this week

Reason’s Damon Root attended the final day of the ObamaCare oral arguments at the Supreme Court yesterday and has extensively analyzed the proceedings from earlier in the week as well, and concludes that the White House underestimated the difficulty of its task.  While the Left has focused most of its blame on the performance of Solicitor General Donald Verilli, Root says that the problems stem from the arguments that the Obama administration made about the PPACA, and how quickly the justices poked significant holes in them:

“If I was in the Obama administration, I would not be comfortable with how the last three days went.”

Reason‘s Damon Root was in attendance for the third and final day of oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which focused primarily on the issue of severability, which brings into question whether the individual mandate be excised from the law, or if the law in its totality must be struck down.

Now that the case is in the hands of the Court and a decision isn’t expected until late June, Root thinks the Obama administration has reason to be concerned not only because their Solicitor General’s performance rated poorly, but because “their arguments were nowhere near as strong as they thought they were going to be.”

Democrats are starting to hit the panic button, as this Washington Post article makes clear.  While a few publicly say that a Supreme Court rejection would make for good politics for Barack Obama and other Democrats in the fall election, most understand privately that losing the entire bill or even just the mandate would be a huge political embarrassment:

The Supreme Court’s skeptical consideration of President Obama’s landmark health-care legislation this week has forced his supporters to contemplate the unthinkable: that the justices could throw out the law and destroy the most far-reaching accomplishment of the Obama presidency.

The fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is uncertain. A ruling is not expected until June. White House officials are refusing publicly to consider that the law might be struck down or to discuss contingency plans, insisting that they do not address hypothetical questions.

Other Democrats have begun assessing how such an outcome could affect the political landscape of 2012, with some surmising that a backlash against Republicans could follow a ruling against the law. But supporters argue that on a substantive level, the results would be devastating. …

The court will effectively render judgment on the leadership of the president. It was Obama who, at every turn during the original health-care debate, pressed for a more ambitious package that required Americans to purchase insurance.

A nullification would serve as a dramatic rebuke of that decision as well as the judgments Obama and his advisers made about the legality of the law.

“He’s mortgaged his presidency, at least his first term, on health care,” said George C. Edwards, the author of a new book on Obama called “Overreach” and a historian at Texas A&M University. The law “would have restructured a major aspect of life in America. It would have been a major, major legacy for the president. If that is thrown out, he has much less to show for it.”

Meanwhile, the White House is keeping a stiff upper lip, at least publicly.  Yesterday, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest insisted that the Obama administration hadn’t begun gaming out a Plan B in case the court tossed ObamaCare out:

The White House has no contingency plans in place in the event the Supreme Court rules the healthcare law is unconstitutional.

White House officials said Wednesday they remain “confident” that the healthcare reform law is constitutional and is implementing all the provisions of the law.

If the law is thrown out, there’s “no contingency plan in place,” principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said at Wednesday’s press briefing with reporters. “We’re focused on maximizing the benefits of this law.”

Don’t bet on that.  After this week’s developments at the Supreme Court, no political organization would shrug off the possibilities of defeat.  If nothing else, they will have begun to formulate a political plan of attack in the event of a total or partial loss when the decision comes down, most likely in late July, and you can also bet your bottom dollar that it will include a strategy of launching nasty attacks on the integrity of the justices who vote it down — unless the final vote comes out differently than the 5-4 split everyone is expecting.

Update: Perhaps this is a trial balloon for the post-overturning strategy?

Obama pollster Joel Benenson at Third Way breakfast downplays #hcr; “the president has many signature accomplishments over his first term.”

Well, there was the stimulus that failed to stimulate, the Recovery Summer That Wasn’t, bankruptcies at Solyndra and other Obama-donor-linked companies that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, high gas prices, and … er … the Lily Ledbetter Act.  Yeah, that strategy probably won’t fly.

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