Published June 28, 2012
There's no question that Thursday's ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the individual mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance starting in 2014 is a short term victory for President Obama. That's simply undeniable.
The court's decision to uphold the individual mandate and almost all of the health care law is a much better outcome for the Administration politically than invalidation of all -- or even part -- of the law. Indeed, it comes at the end of an especially bad month for Obama and stems the bloodletting that has been going on for most of June.
But there's a downside in today's news for the White House and the president's 2012 reelection campaign.
Put simply, in the court of public opinion, polling has consistently shown that ObamaCare is a loser. ObamaCare was unpopular in 2010, remains unpopular now, and almost certainly be unpopular come November.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that the Affordable Care Act remains unpopular across-the-board -- and particularly among independent swing voters. Indeed, Just a third of Americans overall -- and only 21 percent of independents approve of the law, a new low in AP-GfK polling.
And today's Supreme Court ruling --, which established in no uncertain terms that ObamaCare is a TAX -- will not make the law more popular in the long term.
Indeed, it will mean that the legislation will now be explicitly seen in the context of higher taxes for hardworking Americans at a time of weakened economic conditions.
This means that going forward in the election campaign, it will be increasingly difficult for President Obama to defend an unpopular law at an unpopular time -- thus working to Republican challenger Mitt Romney's advantage.
What the President needs to do is something that he has been reluctant to do -- take on the issue of entitlement policy in the context of overall fiscal and budgetary reform.
He must position ObamaCare as the centerpiece of an overarching plan to address the issue of costs in a serious and sustained way, while simultaneously facilitating economic growth and private sector job creation.
Moreover, he must put forth a comprehensive set of policy prescriptions to address the issues that the American people regard as fundamental, and a long-term economic agenda that emphasizes tax reform, fiscal prudence, and economic growth -- as well as the need to rein in entitlements, balance the budget, and reduce the debt and deficit.
To that end, he can talk about ObamaCare in a manner that emphasizes cost containment and innovation, within the context of fiscal discipline and budgetary restraint -- specifically referencing the work of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform -- a bipartisan commission chaired by former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and former chief of staff in the Clinton White House, Erskine Bowles.
For his part, Mitt Romney will almost certainly say that his first act if elected President will be repealing ObamaCare, and continue to attack the higher taxes and the impact on health care costs that will surely result.
And in the short-term this makes sense.
But with Mitt Romney's own favorability ratings remaining low and a new round of polling showing Obama holding a consistent advantage in key swing states -- it is a strategy with limited upsides.
Governor Romney, too, has to articulate a vision for comprehensive health care reform.
Put simply, in the absence of a clear set of core principles, and a plan to balance the budget, create jobs and a smart, reasonable, and rational discussion about health care and a health care policy that takes steps to rein in excesses in the system, his hopes for winning the White House come November -- a goal that is well within reach -- could be dashed.