President Obama won a big victory with the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling. But it won’t make winning a second term much easier.
The 5-4 ruling validated Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, reaffirming the president’s decision to use his political capital to push the law through Congress.
It will provide a boost of enthusiasm for Obama’s base, and it could lure some independent voters to Obama's column.
Still, it is the economy that will remain the central focus of the 2012 campaign, something that will be reinforced a week from Friday when new employment figures are released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The Supreme Court decision removes a major roadblock for the reelection, but I don’t expect the dialogue to change,” said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist. “This decision is not going to cause a groundswell of support from people who wouldn’t have supported it already.
“The campaign is still the same,” Simmons added. “It’ll continue to be all about the economy and jobs and who has the right vision and plan."
Democratic strategist Mark Mellman (also a columnist for The Hill) said it’s tough to predict what the political implications might be for the presidential race, but agreed that the most important issue of the election, regardless of what the court decided, will be the economy — “by leaps and bounds.”
The decision was a shock to Republicans, who saw conservative Chief Justice John Roberts join the court’s four liberals to affirm Obama’s healthcare law.
Yet the decision could eventually boost the GOP if it rallies the grassroots base. In just a few hours, the Romney campaign raised approximately $2 million off the ruling, after the campaign sent out an email telling supporters that “the stakes couldn't be higher.”
As a result, “I think President Obama will get short-term gain but will end up feeling long-term pain,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.
That might be true. After the decision was rendered on Thursday, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill vowed to repeal the law. They also seized upon the court’s rationale that the mandate was constitutional because it was a tax.
In brief remarks in Washington, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney vowed to repeal the law as president, calling it a "job killer."
“What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States,” Romney said in Washington, standing against a backdrop of the Capitol dome. “What the court did today was say that ObamaCare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do was say that ObamaCare is good law or that it’s good policy.
“ObamaCare was bad policy yesterday. It’s bad policy today,” Romney added. “ObamaCare was bad law yesterday. It’s bad law today.”
In addition to Romney, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (Fla.) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were among the prominent Republicans warning Americans of, as they saw it, the imposition of a new tax burden.
“The intensity is on the side of the Republicans,” Bonjean said. “They want the law repealed. So if any Republican was on the fence for Mitt Romney, they are now rooting for him to win so he can repeal the law. It is a massive rallying cry.”
Senior administration officials said Thursday it’s impossible to predict how the electorate might interpret the decision and whether it will play in their favor.
But one official surmised that on the heels of the court’s ruling, voters will be turned off by blatant threats by Republicans to repeal the law.
One official — echoing Obama’s earlier remarks — said voters are uninterested in fighting a two-year-old battle, wanting lawmakers to focus on the economy and forward-looking issues.
At the same time, even with the healthcare victory, the senior administration officials said Obama will not be ramping up his message on the issue when he goes on the campaign trail this summer. Instead, he will continue to make mention of the healthcare law as one major policy accomplishment during his tenure.
But at least for now, the ruling tilts in Obama’s favor, some strategists said.
“I think it’s a short-term benefit to the president because he doesn’t have to spend time apologizing for this, and for all the time he spent on it,” said GOP strategist Ed Rollins.
And while it’s unclear how many votes Obama might pick up from the high court’s ruling, Simmons said one thing was clear: “The president won today, and people like being with the winner.”