Democrats are panicking as they see the presidential race slipping away from them. Privately, they acknowledge that they don’t expect the economy to improve enough between now and November to give President Obama much of a boost. No doubt unforeseeable events between now and Election Day will shake up the race in ways that we can’t know, but there is at least one foreseeable event that has the potential to impact the race: the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision, which is expected later this month. How will whatever the Court does affect the campaign?
My guess is that the Court’s decision, regardless of what it is, will be a setback for Obama. Obamacare is unpopular, and a majority of voters hope the Court rules it unconstitutional. Let’s assume that–as seemed likely when the case was argued–the Court throws out at least some key components of the law. Some have theorized that this could help Obama by taking the issue of Obamacare off the table. That seems unlikely. Rather, such a ruling would confirm in voters’ minds that Obama took his eye off the ball by focusing on health care rather than the economy during the first year of his administration. Obamacare is the president’s signature achievement, one of his few major legislative victories other than the stimulus bill. If that effort turns out to have been for naught, how can it possibly make Obama look good?
This RNC ad, which was released yesterday, is titled “Lost Focus.” It illustrates how Republicans will frame the Obamacare detour:
If, on the other hand, the Court narrowly upholds the act, I also don’t see Obama getting a boost. Holding Obamacare constitutional won’t make it popular, and the publicity surrounding the Court’s decision will once again make the issue front and center. Mitt Romney will pound away on his determination to repeal and replace the AHCA, and will emphasize his own proposals for health care reform, as he has already begun doing. It is hard to see any of that as a positive development for the Obama campaign.
So I think the next big development in the campaign will probably be another setback for the president.
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