Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 vote that the insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. While President Obama and many of his supporters were relieved and jubilated at the result, the notion that this decision will help Obama in his reelection campaign is questionable at best and may actually work against him.
For one, Obama cannot simply point at Republicans on the Court and accuse them of judicial activism. Conservative Justice John Roberts was the swing vote as he crossed the line to vote with the liberals, and moderate Anthony Kennedy sided with the conservative minority. In a sense, it was a bipartisan decision.
Another point that has been pointed out by many pundits is that Obama’s healthcare bill was modeled off Mitt Romney’s program in Massachusetts. If that’s true, it could lead to an awkward encounter at a debate. For this reason, both Obama and Romney are likely to sidestep questions about whether Obamacare was influenced by Romney. This is because if Obama admits that he was influenced by Romney, it would make him unable to make Romney look out-of-touch and different from Obama when they are in unison on such a key issue.
It could also help Romney in the sense that the opponents of Obamacare did not have their wishes granted by the Court and instead have to go to the ballot box in November and vote for Romney. This will be a boost to his campaign, in my view much more so than any kind of “momentum” generated by a Court decision that favors conservatives.
Finally, if Obamacare is repealed after the election, the Court’s decision will be a boon for conservatives. In addition to the repeal, any subsequent efforts by Congresses in the future to reinstate the law will have to come with the acknowledgment that it will be a regressive tax on the poor and middle class, not simply a regulation of interstate commerce. This is a point that the Court agreed on unanimously.
The race for the White House has only become more interesting from the Court’s decision. We have yet to see who will gain more momentum and use it to his advantage more in the election. Not to mention the fact that people may lose interest in the race if the two are seen as too similar based on their comparable healthcare proposals. We have a lot to look forward to between now and November, and it could be very interesting.