This morning’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the individual mandate—and the majority of the Affordable Care Act—is a huge victory for the Obama Administration.
By a 5-4 verdict, The Supreme Court decided that the President’s signature health care legislation, commonly known as “ObamaCare,” will stand. The Court appears only to have thrown out a provision that would penalize states for not expanding their Medicaid rolls.
It’s impossible to analyze the High Court’s decision without considering what it means for November’s presidential election.
Most importantly, by winning today, President Obama avoids the stench of being framed as a political “loser” who wasted a massive amount of political capital on an unconstitutional bill. His victory will allow him to campaign on the Bill’s key provisions: providing health care to 30 million Americans by 2022 who otherwise wouldn’t have it, doing away with pre-existing conditions and lifetime insurance caps, and adding children up to age 26 to their parents’ insurance policies.
Republicans have a bigger messaging challenge. Mitt Romney is a flawed spokesperson for the anti-mandate message, since he supported an individual mandate while serving as governor of Massachusetts. Plus, other prominent conservatives—Newt Gingrich comes to mind—until recently supported the individual mandate.
The breakdown of the Court’s decision also complicates their messaging strategy. The swing vote upholding ObamaCare belonged to conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush appointee. That prevents conservatives from running against a “liberal” court.
But Republicans have a couple of potentially potent openings. First, the Court decided that the individual mandate would survive as a “tax,” despite the Obama Administration’s earlier insistence that it wasn’t one. That allows Republicans to accuse President Obama of raising taxes on the middle class. Sarah Palin, for example, was quick to tweet this morning that, “Obama lied to the American people. Again. He said it wasn’t a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.”
Second, ObamaCare remains deeply unpopular with many voters. If Mitt Romney runs on repealing it—and it appears that he will—he may help energize portions of the G.O.P. base and boost fundraising.
Two other big losers today are CNN and Fox News, both of which initially reported that the Court killed the individual mandate. But the biggest media loser of the day is CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who predicted in March that “This law looks like it’s going to be struck down.” His words serve as an important reminder to spokespersons that issuing highly speculative predictions is a bad idea that can badly undermine your credibility.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.