By A.B. Stoddard - 03/28/12 10:41 PM EDT
Irony alert — President Obama gets a boost no matter what the Supreme Court decides on his politically toxic healthcare reform law.
The high court either upholds Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment, imprinting it for history, or it overturns the law, thereby breaking a big stick with which the GOP planned to beat Obama this fall. Should front-runner Mitt Romney become the GOP nominee, what’s left of the stick would more likely resemble a Q-Tip.
Obama ultimately changed his mind, and followed the example then-Gov. Romney had set when he signed healthcare reform into law in Massachusetts in 2006. Both men concluded that conservative think tank Heritage Foundation was correct decades ago in deciding there was no way, without a mandate to buy coverage, to control prices or to protect the taxpayer from uninsured free riders who leech off the government every time they go to the emergency room.
While Romney could control the choice to build elevators for his cars at the beach house he is building in California, he could not control the fact that Obama changed his mind on the mandate, that his law evoked a visceral reaction from the GOP base or that Newt Gingrich and every other conservative who had supported the mandate earlier would flip from the concept and run. Romney, who started running for president in 2006 or earlier as the conservative alternative to John McCain, chose to run after them. Romney tried pivoting by claiming he never intended it to become a national model, yet a Google search proves that effectively false.
Fortunately for Romney, it hasn’t been that tough to keep his stride. Republicans seeking to defeat him in the primary campaign failed miserably to use the best weapon against him — he was given a pass on RomneyCare. But no more. Romney can be sure the Obama campaign will possess the discipline Rick Santorum did not and won’t be distracted from healthcare by messages that send female voters running for the hills. Obama the candidate surely won’t display any weakness or kindness to his rival, or whatever it was that caused former Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty to retreat from his planned attack on “ObamneyCare” and basically kill off his own candidacy for good.
Democratic strategist James Carville said on CNN that the prospect of the healthcare law being overturned might be the best political outcome for Democrats and Obama.
“I honestly believe — this is not spin — I think that this will be the best thing to ever happen to the Democratic Party, because healthcare costs will escalate unbelievably … the Republican Party will own the healthcare system for the foreseeable future.”
Unbelievably cynical. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made the same point almost immediately.
Should ObamaCare be stricken, congressional Republicans will be free to paint the president and his party as socialists who passed a partisan, unpopular, unprecedented intrusion of government into the private sector and ultimately had to be stopped by the Supreme Court from destroying liberty in the United States for all time.
Romney might not want to, as it will only invite attacks on his ambiguous record of supporting insurance mandates. He will probably want to stick to the economy instead, and to hunt for some other sticks.
Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.