Strategists on all sides are thinking about the consequences of the law being overturned. Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said both Obama and Romney, should he become the GOP nominee, could use the issue to their benefit.
“For very different reasons, both Obama and Romney will have significant challenges motivating their respective bases this fall,” he said. “So the court could end up providing both sides with a convenient way to get the party faithful excited. Obama tells liberals that the evil [Chief Justice John] Roberts court robbed the country of health-care reform. Romney promises to appoint conservative justices to protect the Constitution. Neither one of them persuades any swing voters by talking about this, but both can use the issue to fire up their bases.”
Democratic strategist James Carville argued earlier this week that a Supreme Court defeat of the law would be good for Democrats. He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “As a professional Democrat, there’s nothing better to me than overturning this thing 5-4 and then the Republican Party will own the health-care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin.”
Some Republicans disagree that victory would be costly for the GOP. Rob Stutzman, a California-based strategist, said, “A November election about picking up the pieces of a struck-down health-care reform law is likely a huge boost for Republicans and only motivates their base, including the tea party.”
Jim Dyke, a South Carolina-based strategist, said that, although a far-reaching victory in the high court would take away the “repeal” battle cry from GOP candidates, it would provide an exclamation point to more than two years of assertions that the president has been a failure in offering solutions to the country’s big problems. “It reinforces [that] Obama is in over his head,” he said.
Bill Palatucci, a Republican National Committee member from New Jersey, disagreed with Carville’s assessment. “A win by those opposing the law will create a burst of positive enthusiasm, which will embolden tea party activists and Republicans to work together in the coming fall election,” he said. “Rather than being angry but dejected, a win at the Supreme Court would bring energy, momentum and new spirit up and down the GOP ticket.”
Republican optimism at this moment, as everyone awaits the court’s decision, is understandable. A ruling that goes against the administration would represent a major defeat for Obama and his party. It would end one battle in the GOP’s long fight against the president, but it would begin another. Are Republicans truly ready for what would come next?
For previous columns by Dan Balz, go to postpolitics.com.