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Could President Obama run against the Supreme Court?

at 07:45 AM ET, 06/25/2012

Let’s say that later this morning (or on Thursday), the Supreme Court rules that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, thereby invalidating — whether in part or in total — the signature legislative accomplishment of President Obama’s first term.


Opponents of Obama health care legislation rally during the final day of arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court in Washington on March 28.

The initial reactions are predictable. Republicans would be triumphant, Democrats depressed. And, as we have written before, it’s not entirely clear that anything — up to and including the Supreme Court’s decision — can drastically alter public opinion regarding Obama’s health care law.

But what if Obama decides to use the Court decision as a pivot point in the campaign — running hard against the ruling as a sign that partisanship has infected even the highest court in the land?

Obama has already given some indication that he might head in that direction rhetorically. In his 2010 State of the Union speech, with many of the justices sitting in the House chamber, Obama said that the Citizens United ruling “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign companies — to spend without limit in our elections.”

Then in the immediate aftermath of the Court’s oral arguments on the health care law, Obama said that it would be “unprecedented” and “extraordinary”for the Supreme Court to overturn the law.

What’s not clear is whether Obama’s public comments on the Court, which the White House quickly played down as much ado about nothing, amounted to a trial balloon or were simply Obama, the Constitutional law professor, offering his own personal reflections.

If it’s the former, there is some evidence in polling data that a campaign against the Court could have some positive effect for Obama.

In a Pew Research Center poll released last month, positive ratings for the Court hit a 25-year low, a dip that was consistent across party lines. In an April Washington Post-ABC News poll, 50 percent of registered voters said that the justices were likely to decide the heath care case based on their “partisan political views,” while 40 percent said the Court would rule “on the basis of the law”.

Running counter to that data is the fact that the Court remains a little-known entity to most of the American public — 53 percent of people couldn’t name the chief justice in a July 2010 poll — which makes it hard to center a campaign around, particularly in an election where the economy is such a dominant issue.

Even if it’s not a major issue for persuadable voters, there could be some political benefit for Obama to run against the Supreme Court. In a June Pew poll, 74 percent of Democrats said they’d be unhappy with the Court for tossing out the entire law, while 55 percent also said they’d be unhappy with the Court overturning the individual mandate but leaving the rest of the law intact. Running against the Court, then, could help rev up the Democratic base.

Such a strategy is not without risk, however. While the Supreme Court has dipped in popularity of late, it remains one of the most respected institutions in the country. And Obama’s previous comments challenging the Court brought considerable (and, interestingly, bipartisan) condemnation from those who view the Justices as above politics.

Still, if the health care law is thrown out, Obama will be left with a relatively narrow palette of political options to choose from as he seeks to put the ruling in the context of the broader campaign. Running against the Court may well look like Obama’s best choice in 24 hours time.

Democrats pick Enyart for Costello’s seat: Illinois Democrats have selected recently retired former National Guard commander Bill Enyart for their ballot vacancy in the southern Illinois district held by retiring Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.).

Democrats nominated Brad Harriman for the open seat in the March primary, but Harriman dropped out of the race abruptly last month, citing health issues.

Enyart will face former lieutenant governor candidate Jason Plummer (R) in the general election in a swing district.

Rice takes part in first fundraiser, for ShePAC: Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who reportedly “stole the show” at Romney’s Utah retreat, is heading to D.C. for her first-ever fundraiser.

Rice’s increasing political involvement takes her to the Capitol Hill Club tonight for the inaugural fundraiser for the new Republican women’s political action committee, ShePAC.

The guest list includes Senate candidates Deb Fischer (Neb.), Heather Wilson (N.M.) and Sarah Steelman (Mo.), and House candidates Martha Zoller (GA-09), Lisa Wilson-Foley (CT-05), Karen Harrington (FL-23), Wendy Rogers (AZ-08), Kim Vann (CA-03), Nancy Jacobs (MD-02), Faith Loudon (MD-04), Leah Campos-Schandlbauer (AZ-08), Maria Sheffield (GA-12) and Jason Love, husband of Utah congressional candidate Mia Love (UT-04).

Fixbits:

Romney was apparently a big fan of impersonating law enforcement while in college.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) says Romney “doesn’t have the control of the hearts and the minds of the people.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) struggles a bit to enunciate his immigration platform.

Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) is up with a new ad hitting Senate campaign opponent Heidi Heitkamp (D) using video in with Heitkamp expressing support for Obama’s health care law. Two GOP-leaning outside groups are running similar ads.

A new poll for the Deseret News shows Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) leading much-hyped GOP recruit Mia Love 53 percent to 38 percent.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) confirms that there is no evidence that White House officials have withheld information about Operation “Fast and Furious.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) endorses Tom Rice in the GOP primary runoff in South Carolina’s new 7th district over former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer. Bauer ran against Haley in the 2010 governor’s race.

Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) rents space for his campaign headquarters in a building he owns, and he has also given space to the state Republican party.

Must-reads:

Health-care ruling will cap a consequential week for Obama” — Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

Mitt and the junk bond king” — Michael Kranish and Beth Healy, Boston Globe

1-in-4 uncommitted now in White House race” — Laurie Kellman and Jennifer Agiesta, AP

Romney’s Mormon army mobilizes” — Anna Fifield, Financial Times

Mitt’s no policy problem” — Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Politico

Obama’s legal tactics seen as possibly hurting chances to save health-care law” — Peter Wallsten, Washington Post

Members of Congress trade in companies while making laws that affect those same firms” — Dan Keating, David S. Fallis, Kimberly Kindy and Scott Higham, Washington Post

If History Repeats, Everyone’s VP Guess Is Wrong” — Scott Conroy, Real Clear Politics

For Wealthy Romney Donors, Up Close and Personal Access” — Michael Barbaro, New York Times

 
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