With a ruling set for as soon as next week on Obamacare, both sides are busily preparing for the ferocious spin war that will erupt in the wake of the decision. I’m not one who believes there’s any silver lining for Dems in a decision against the law — it could help reinforce the narrative that Obama allowed himself to get distracted from the economy with nothing to show for it.
But it’s still fair to ask whether such a decision would also put more pressure on Republicans to explain what, exactly, they would replace health reform with, and what they’d do for those who’d be stranded if the law is voided. And so this nugget buried in today’s New York Times piece on the coming public relations battle is pretty interesting:
After a repeal vote, Republicans plan to first let the dust settle. Then ... they would move forward incrementally with bills to allow the purchase of insurance across state lines, to loosen restrictions on consumers wishing to change insurers, and to bolster tax-preferred health savings accounts. When several Republican lawmakers suggested popular parts of the health care law would be maintained, conservatives loudly revolted....
A senior Republican House aide said it was up to the White House, not Republicans, to produce a contingency plan for those left behind by a court invalidation, like the thousands of sick people or consumers with pre-existing conditions in new federally backed high-risk pools.
This obviously is not great sourcing, and could definitely use some more reporting. But if Republicans have decided that their argument will be that it’s all on the White House to come up with another plan for the sick and for those with preexisting conditions, that seems pretty newsworthy. After all, Mitt Romney’s campaign has now gone on record admitting something similar: His plan would only guarantee coverage to people with preexisting conditions if they’ve had constant, continuous coverage in the past.
Again, a decision against the health law — which seems very possible, or even likely — would be terrible for Dems. But the provision barring discrimination against those with preexisting conditions is very popular. And if it becomes clear that the GOP sees no obligation to replace that provision, it could clarify the choice this fall in new ways and play unpredictably during the campaign.
* The GOP’s talking point on “repeal and replace”: Relatedly, Republicans are circulating a new talking point that justifies not coming up with a big plan to replace Obamacare, one that blames Democrats:
“Republicans will not repeat the Democrats’ mistakes. We won’t rush to pass a massive bill the American people don’t support.”
Republicans seem to sense danger in failing to at least appear that they want to come up with a meaningful replacement, and need a credible reason for not doing so right away.
* How will demographic changes impact Romney’s chances? Ron Brownstein notes a fascinating change: Non-college whites have dropped from 61 percent of the electorate in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won landslide reelection, to only 34 percent today.
To win, Romney may need to make inroads among not just minorities, but also among upscale whites, a growing demographic that is increasingly important to the Dem coalition. As Brownstein notes, economic discontent makes that very possible, but it’s also possible that Obama’s support among the growing minority and college educated white vote share means he can hold on despite Rust Belt lsses.
* Obama re-elect reality check of the day: Charlie Cook notes that the recovery is likely to continue sputtering until election day:
it is increasingly probable that if this election is a referendum on the economy and President Obama’s handling of it, he will lose....The Obama camp will have to make the prospect of a President Romney so unpalatable that voters will not want to entrust the Oval Office to him. Obama’s supporters will need to persuade voters that it’s better to put up with what they have than take a risk with Romney.
That last point is key. Keep an eye out for an Obama message focused on the idea that changing leadership amid a fragile recovery is a greater risk than continuing to slog forward on the road we know.
* Obama not connecting with independents? Eleanor Clift has a piece on independents who remain sour on Obama, including this key response from one of them in a focus group:
“The whole platform was hope — I don’t feel any more hope today.”
One of the key arguments Republicans will make to independents is that Obama has failed to live up to expectations as he himself defined them — in other words, he let them down, and it’s understandable that they’d opt for an alternative, even if they like him.
* Romney wants to turn America into Europe: As Paul Krugman notes, Romney’s insistence that we don’t need more cops, firefighters and teachers is yet another sign of the up-is-downism of this race:
While Republicans love to engage in Europe-bashing, they’re actually the ones who want us to emulate European-style austerity and experience a European-style depression...this bodes ill if Mr. Romney wins in November. For all indications are that his idea of smart policy is to double down on the very spending cuts that have hobbled recovery here and sent Europe into an economic and political tailspin.
And as I noted here the other day, Romney’s actual economic plan really would cut billions of federal dollars protecting these jobs.
* Obama needs a better response to Romney’s falsehoods: The New York Times editorial board says what must never be said: The foundation of Romney’s whole campaign is made up of lies. The real problem with Obama’s speech, the Times notes, is that he has not come up with a convincing way to punch through the wall of falsehoods.
* No, Romney has not won the presidential race just yet: Mark Halperin lists the reasons why Obama could still win reelection, which is to say, the reasons that the election shouldn’t be declared over five months before the voting.
* Charles Krauthammer warns GOP against overconfidence: The Twitters are alive with confidence in an Obama loss, but Krauthammer pours cold water on predictions of victory, noting that “there is nothing inexorable about the current Obama slide,” “The race remains 50-50,” and Romney is still “a solid, stolid, gaffe-prone challenger for whom conservatism is a second language.”
* And it ain’t easy applying reason to politics: Sam Stein talks to the Moneyball statistics expert about the ways the Obama team might try to overcome the massive spending advantage the right’s super PACs will weild, and the difficulties of applying statitistics to politics, which is, to put it mildly, an inexact science.