Given how badly Republicans want to destroy Obamacare, and given how visibly they were anticipating that the Supreme Court would carry out that task yesterday, it’s surprising to see so many claiming the ruling amounts to a big victory for their side. Multiple GOP strategists tell Dan Balz that Obamacare’s survival will make it far easier to mobilize the base and turn the electorate against Obama by arguing that he has foisted a massive tax increase on the country, making the push for full repeal central to the campaign.
I don’t believe the ruling will have much of an impact on the election either way. But it’s hard not to notice the contrast between the two parties’ postures as the smoke clears. Multiple Democrats are arguing that it’s time to move on from the divisive battles over health care and turn to the economy. Meanwhile, Republicans are angrily insisting that they are not willing to accept the verdict of the court and that we must refight this battle yet again.
Mitt Romney’s campaign has debuted a new hashtag — #FullRepeal — and is boasting about how much money it has raised off that goal. But most polling suggests the American people are conflicted about whether they want full repeal; a sizable chunk want the law altered but not done away with completely. And note what two Republicans told Balz:
Ed Goeas, a GOP pollster, said before the ruling that it was important, in pressing for repeal, for Republicans to be cognizant of the fact that many of the law’s provisions are popular. “People strongly dislike Obamacare, but they’ve kind of forgotten why they don’t like it,” he said. “But they do remember what they do like.”...
Ken Khachigian, a California-based Republican strategist, said the issue will have “zero influence” on the outcome of the election. “Romney would make a huge mistake if he allowed himself to be diverted from the core economic issues,” he said.
No question, the overall law remains unpopular. Dems have to seize this moment to refocus the argument on the provisions that are actually in it, many of which are broadly popular, and on the fact that Republicans would replace them with Nothing. Dems shouldn’t get complacent about yesterday’s victory. And no doubt there may be some political price to pay now that SCOTUS has labeled the mandate a “tax.”
But are independents and moderates really going to respond well to the renewed GOP push for full repeal? We’ve already fought the battle over Obamacare twice — first in Congress, and now in the Courts. One of the primary arguments for full repeal — that it represented Big Government overreach that trampled the Constitution — has been discredited by the highest court in the country. The law has now been enshrined as constitutional. It wouldn’t be surprising if polls in coming weeks show less support for full repeal, as opposed to more.
Elections are about choices, and Republicans want to make this one about whether we keep the law or get rid of it entirely. Fine. But will independents and moderates really want to see this battle fought a third time? My bet is that even those middle-of-the-road voters who are skeptical of Obamacare will want to see officials campaign on ways to fix the law, rather than keep trying to blow it up. My bet is they’ll conclude it’s time to move on.
* Republicans going to war with John Roberts: Will the law be an albatross for down-ticket Dems? As noted above, it has now been validated by the High Court. As Dem strategist Jim Jordan puts it:
“It’s the strongest possible validation for incumbents — a tremendous amount of political cover. Republicans in conservative states can debate with John Roberts all they want.”
* Romney supported a tax increase, remember? GOP strategists are predicting that by calling the mandate a “massive tax increase,” they’ll be able to win over independents in battleground states. Perhaps, but as noted above, they may also be alienated by the drive for full repeal. Either way, this is made even more absurd by the fact that Romney supported precisely the same tax increase as Governor of Massachusetts.
Steve Benen was also good on this yesterday.
* Bobby Jindal vows not to implement Obamacare: Nice catch by Christian Heinze: Bobby Jindal responding to the ruling by vowing that his state won’t implement the law.
This is another front in Round Three in the battle over Obamacare: Will GOP governors use the ruling to opt out of the Medicare expansion?
* Still a long way to go in war over Obamacare: Paul Krugman: The fact that four justices declared the whole law unconstitutional, and the flood of falsehoods about the law that are already dominating the campaign, are a reminder that the opposition to reform remains deeply entrenched and determined to stop at nothing to kill progress. Which is to say: This isn’t over. Not by a long shot.
* SCOTUS decision expanded taxing power: I noted here yesterday that the decision may have expanded federal authority through taxation of inactivity, and Floyd Norris explains how this is novel and an expansion of federal power with roots in the New Deal.
* Limit on commerce clause not restricting: Relatedly, Laurence Tribe explains why conservatives really didn’t secure any big victory in the restrictions on the commerce clause.
* Can conservatives derail highway bill? The House will vote today on the massive job-creating highway bill, adn the question is whether opposition to “federal gluttony” from conservatives will cause enough Republicans to break ranks to prevent its passage.
* And will any Republicans sour on repeal push? GOP Rep Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, who is viewed as vulnerable this cycle by Dems, breaks ranks with colleages in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling and says he’d prefer not to repeal the law but rather to “amend” it in a bipartisan way. In light of the lead item above, it’s worth keeping an eye on whether any other Republicans follow suit.