What now?

Life after the healthcare ruling has begun. The Supreme Court's shocker Thursday was much anticipated, long awaited and, in the end, quite humbling, since nearly no one had it right.

The big, immediate question was, who gains politically from the fact that the highest court not only upheld the president's controversial healthcare reform law — including an individual mandate to purchase care — but then likely broadened the authority of Congress to tax? The answer is one side gets a short-term win and the other enjoys longer-term benefits.

President Obama dodged a powerful bullet in the ruling: the stamp of failure. Yet Democrats won't get excited about this, they can't raise much money off of this, and they still can't talk about healthcare much. Though the Democrats have a chance to reframe the issue, they didn't get it right the first time, so why would it work now?

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For Republicans so sure the mandate was unconstitutional, they lost. But they gain a potent electoral force in the backlash against the court's decision — grassroots energy they worried would be lost in the event the law was struck down. Not only did Mitt Romney raise more than a million dollars in a few hours after the news broke, but Tea Party activists across the country will work hard to defeat Obama and every congressional Democrat they can find on a ballot. What Republicans won't tell voters is how hard it will be to repeal the law, how Mitt Romney can't actually do so on his first day in office and how the GOP isn't likely to win 60 votes in the Senate even if the party keeps the House and Romney is elected. So in congressional races, expect to hear a lot about a healthcare repeal.

At the presidential level Romney will push hard against ObamaCare as a job killer. But he too once supported a mandate to buy insurance, and even recommended it be used at the national level. He will see his own words on video and in print in ads the Democrats will run and they will likely also come right out of President Obama's mouth during the presidential debates this fall. He managed yesterday to try and pretend nothing about the SCOTUS ruling was political — but he couldn't help from mentioning that mandates were once supported by both parties, including the Republicans' nominee for president this year.

Romney has said so a few times that have been captured on camera, and of course when Obama was in office — and Romney was preparing his second presidential campaign — he took to the pages of USA Today to pen an op-ed showing Obama how to pass healthcare reform. While encouraging him to use "the lessons we learned in Massachusetts," Romney went on to explain how "we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves, rather than pass their medical costs on to others."

Romney will hear those words again.


HOW DO YOU THINK THE SUPREME COURT RULING ON THE ACA WILL IMPACT THE ELECTION? Ask A.B.
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