The politics of the Obamacare decision

Josh Gerstein, a fine reporter for Politico, considers the best- and worst-case results of tomorrow’s Obamacare decision for key players. Oddly, Gerstein concludes that a decision upholding the law in full is the best case scenario for both President Obama and Mitt Romney.

According to Gerstein, Obama wins if his law is upheld because it represents the signature legislative achievement of his presidency and his most consequential legacy. And, although the public remains split on the wisdom of the legislation, “a court ruling backing the law’s constitutionality would be seen by many Americans as a stamp of approval., even if the justices insist in the finer print that they’re not endorsing the merits of the measure.” By contrast, a decision striking Obamacare down would mean the president “effectively wasted the bulk of his political capital, nearly a year of his presidency and good chunk of the time his party controlled both houses of Congress.”

As for Romney, Gerstein says he would benefit from a decision upholding Obamacare because it would energize his supporters and give his campaign focus. But a decision striking down the law would force Romney to get specific about his own plans for health care reform.

My view is that the the Supreme Court caase is a lose/lose political proposition for the president. If the Court rejects Obamacare, in whole or in significant part, Obama will, as Gerstein said, be viewed as having wasted much of his presidency enacting an unpopular and unconstitutional law. If the Court upholds it in full, then Obama will be viewed as having saddled America with unpopular legislation that will make their lives worse. Obama would, however, prefer this scenario to the alternative because, as Gerstein notes, he wants to preserve his legacy.

By the same token, Romney comes out ahead whichever way the Supreme Court rules, and probably to about the same extent.

In the long term, I believe that Republicans will be better off politically if Obamacare is upheld. In this scenario, once Obamacare kicks in, people will be cursing the Democrats every time they, or their parents or children, have to wait too long for a medical procedure, every time they believe a doctor hasn’t given them as much time as they feel they needed, etc. In other words, people will be cursing the Democrats more or less in perpetuity.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.