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Presidential campaigns regroup, refocus after court decision on health care law

The 2012 presidential campaigns quickly refocused Thursday after the Supreme Court let stand the Affordable Care Act, with President Obama vowing to move forward and Republican challenger Mitt Romney again promising to repeal the law, if elected.

Their immediate reactions underscored how the decision, far from resolving the debate over the health care law, would energize both sides of that divide going into the November election. Obama and the Democratic allies who helped him pass the law and have defended it all along counted Thursday's decision as a best-case-scenario victory, and vindication of the president's biggest legislative achievement. 

But Republicans, determined to make the best of the situation, made clear that the opinion would only hand them a rhetorical weapon in the upcoming campaign. Both sides were raising hundreds of thousands of dollars off the ruling in the hours following the decision, proving that despite pleas by top-ranking lawmakers not to view the decision through a political lens, campaign chiefs were rapidly working the ruling into their election-year strategy. 

By mid-afternoon, the Romney campaign was up with a one-minute ad that closed with, “The Supreme Court may have made their decision, but the American people haven’t. Day one. Job one. Repeal ObamaCare.”

With the high court ruling the law constitutional, Romney argued it was still bad policy because it cuts Medicare and raises taxes on Americans by, he said, roughly $500 billion.

“What the court did not do on its last day in session I will do,” Romney said. “ObamaCare was bad law yesterday, it’s bad law today.”

Attempting to tie the high-court decision to his core message that he is better suited to revive the country’s slumping economy, Romney also called the law a “job killer.”

“Our mission is clear,” he said on Capitol Hill. “If we want to get rid of ObamaCare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that.”

The president, in a White House address, appeared to downplay the court decision as a political win, instead calling it a “victory" for the American people. 

He also vowed to move forward and focus on the economy and jobs.

“What the country can't afford to do is re-fight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were,” he said. “With today's announcement, it is time for us to move forward.”

John Brabender, the GOP strategist who helped lead former Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, said Obama likely wants to go forward because “he doesn’t want to dwell on the biggest tax increase in history.”

But he said the court decision will continue to be a factor in the final months of the campaigns because it “left more a question than a period at the end of sentence,” and that it could have an even bigger impact on 2012 Senate and House races because both parties will be trying to get votes and majorities to either repeal or defend the health care legislation.

Within minutes of the Thursday morning court decision, GOP Rep. David Schweikert said the "Supreme Court just woke up a sleeping giant. ... The election just rolled back to 2010 because it was driven by ObamaCare."

Democratic strategist Ben Tulchin, president of San Francisco-based Tulchin Research, doesn't think the decision will have a large impact on the race.

"It helps President Obama somewhat by having a conservative court validate his signature accomplishment and lets it stand," he said. "Independent voters tend to care more about seeing the president and their elected officials getting thing done than ideological debates.. It could help Romney a bit in the short term to re-energize his base. (However) Romney being the nominee limits the ability of Republicans to attack ObamaCare because he supported a nearly identical plan as governor of Massachusetts."