Supremes Could Help Obama by Hurting His Law

Supremes Could Help Obama by Hurting His Law; Will Cain Pain Help Romney?; White House Baits GOP With Berwick

Health Law Do-Over Has Appeal for Obama

“[The decision striking down President Obama’s health law] denies Congress the broad deference it is due in enacting laws to address the nation’s most pressing economic problems.”

-- Filing from Solicitor General Donald Verrelli asking the Supreme Court to hear the appeal of the president’s health law.

With none of the litigants objecting and the fate of 18 percent of the national economy in the balance, it would be a big surprise if the Supreme Court did not announce today that it will consider the constitutionality of President Obama’s health law.

That would put the court on track for rendering a decision in the heat of the 2012 election cycle.

Power Play will leave it to the legal beagles to sniff out the nuances of the court’s decision. But everybody knows that which case or cases are being considered will matter a great deal since some have broader implications by more centrally challenging the law while others narrowly focus on certain provisions.

As regular readers have heard before: As embarrassing as it would be for the president to have his signature legislative accomplishment struck down by the high court, it’s probably still a net positive for the president to see his law go down in defeat.

If the central provision of the legislation -- a requirement that all Americans either buy private insurance or be enrolled in a government program -- is struck down and the law is unraveled, the president would be largely excused from defending the legislation.

Especially if the Republicans, as expected, nominate Mitt Romney, a pioneer of mandatory insurance, there will be little incentive for the GOP to hound Obama on the law. While the Obama health law has grown more and more unpopular (ask Ohio voters), Republicans would lose much of their ability to run against it.

The health law has been central in the GOP case against Obama because not only is it is specifically unpopular, it is bad for Obama as evidence of his neglect for economic and fiscal concerns to focus on the creation of a new entitlement program.

If the Supreme Court wipes the law away, it will allow Obama to rally his base, much of which found his accommodation of pharmaceutical and insurance interests in the final law distasteful. Obama will say he needs four more years to remake the Supreme Court so the left can finally have the kind of public-sector, centralized health program it has long coveted.

But more importantly, Obama will be able to simultaneously offer a different message to skeptical moderates: There’s nothing to worry about on the health care front. He tried, got knocked down by GOP jerks, learned his lesson and will do better next time – which neatly synchs up with the overall campaign message.

He would get a week of stories in June about the embarrassment of seeing the law struck down followed by weeks of vague promises from Obama about what he’ll do differently next time.

Plus, if the court strikes down only the mandatory insurance provision, it would leave Obama lots of goodies to tout: keeping 26 year olds on their parents insurance, no dropping of sick customers, etc. Wonks will point out that those benefits were to be financed by having the federal government force more Americans to patronize insurance companies, but try to put that in a campaign ad.

Conversely, if the court decides to massively expand the powers of the federal government in a 5-4 decision by granting Congress the right to make people buy stuff because it is good for them, the right will be apoplectic and moderates will see several weeks of stories about the now rapid implementation of a system that even the administration acknowledges has some big honking bugs in it.

Are Republicans Ready to Fall in Line?

“I'm thinking he would have to have a split personality to do the things that were said.”

-- Gloria Cain, wife of Herman Cain, “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”

It may finally be happening for Mitt Romney. The destruction of his rivals has started to materially benefit him.

Two polls out today – a re-survey of 102 lively GOP voters who participated in the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey and the hybrid poll done by Politico – both show that Romney is getting a bump and Cain falls.

A small-sample re-survey and Politico’s poll aren’t exactly the platinum standard for public opinion, but they are useful data points at a time of upheaval in the GOP field.

Of the 102 in the Journal poll, Cain won 51 percent to 47 percent in the initial survey conducted Nov. 2 to Nov. 5. At the end of last week, it was Romney ahead, 56 percent to 43 percent.

The Politico poll takes the unusual step of releasing each day’s survey, splitting 436 Republican voters into three evenings of polling. Like the Journal poll, a number that small is not of statistical significance, but a trend can be observed with Cain starting with 40 percent, dropping to 22 percent and finishing at 19 percent. While Romney averaged his typical 25 percent in the poll, the third day of polling yielded him 40 percent support.

Why would Romney be benefiting more from the Cain derailment than the faltering of previous frontrunners? Is it that Romney made a nod to the right in calling for an entitlement overhaul? Is it the fact that Cain is the frontrunner most similar to Romney so far – businessman, pro-TARP, hawkish foreign policy, etc. – making the jump less jarring? Is it that there are no more “hot biscuits” left in the basket for GOP voters to grab? Is it that Romney looks inevitable and people want to back a winner?

It’s all of those things, but mostly the fact that there are seven weeks left until voting begins and many Republicans are ready to end this debate demolition derby and get on with picking a viable nominee. Romney may not be a hot biscuit, but he is a plausible nominee.

Tonight, “On the Record with Great Van Susteren” will air Gloria Cain’s first public appearance since May as the faltering frontrunner looks to turn things around. This is a vastly superior way to present a spouse than a Spitzer-rific press conference or a staged public appearance. Keeping Mrs. Cain off the campaign trail to this point means that she must now be deployed to discuss the allegations of sexual misconduct against her husband, a la Hillary Clinton.

As Cain spins his wheels on the sexual harassment oil slick, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich continue to vie to be the conservative alternative to Romney.

Perry’s recovery from his historic gaffe in last week’s debate has been pretty remarkable. He took his beating from David Letterman et al and then turned in his first really impressive debate performance yet in Saturday’s CBS foreign-policy contest. But CBS’ decision to air only one third of the contest and to hold it on a Saturday night during college football season likely means that Perry’s performance was seen by very few.

Gingrich, meanwhile, continues to slowly pick up support as Cain’s backers, even as they remain sympathetic to his plight, continue to drift away. Gingrich had another boffo performance at the CBS debate, pummeling CBS’ Scott Pelley. But, to be fair, Pelley was Gingrich’s easiest target yet as he attempted to lecture the former speaker on the rule of law. Woof.

The possibility remains that Cain, Perry or Gingrich will take a strong finish in Iowa and ride the momentum into a second-place finish in New Hampshire, a win in South Carolina and viability in an extended nominating contest.

But Romney is betting that conservative votes will remain divided, and that he can put the nomination away. It was enough for John McCain to have both Romney and Mike Huckabee chasing him, so Romney must like having three contenders.

Here’s what to watch in the weeks to come:

-- Real polling results for Romney that show the moderate Bay Stater hitting the elusive 30 percent mark nationally.

-- The shrinking of the three-man primary within a primary on the right. If Cain tanks, for example, the Perry-Gingrich battle would get very interesting and might foreshadow a more serious challenge for Romney once voting begins.

-- Romney returning to Iowa and South Carolina. It’s one thing to make drop in visits, but if Romney starts shifting his focus to those uber-conservative states, it’s because his internal polling will have told him that the passing lane is clear.

White House Dangles Berwick and Sebelius in Bout of Conservative Bear Baiting

“We have a wealth of good ideas in health care, but the big challenge is spread. This will be seed money to get innovation to go further. This is venture capital to grow good ideas to scale.”

-- Dr. Donald Berwick, administrator for Medicare and Medicaid, in an interview with the Washington Post.

The Obama administration will announce today that “we can’t wait” to award “as much as” $1 billion over the coming months in grant money for medical providers in the government insurance system.

For a government that spends $10 billion a day, this should not be front-page news. But the Obama administration is doing all it can to reinforce the image of a president so desperate to help the nation that, gosh darn it, he’s not afraid to bypass those unpatriotic obstructionists in Congress. Friendly pressies will give the story gobs of coverage.

It will also draw lots of attention from the right because of what it is and who’s administering it.

Though the funds may be small, their purpose is to allow the man tasked with implementing core components of the president’s health law, the ever-controversial Dr. Donald Berwick (he of care rationing and envy for the British model). To conservatives, Berwick and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are sort of the Fredrick Frankenstein and Frau Blucher of the health-law story.

Like “we can’t wait” to tie college loan payments to the borrower’s income rather than the debt owed or “we can’t wait” to have the government back more undesirable home loans, the economic impact of the Berwick grants may be small, but they are sure to draw attacks from the right and support from the left. That serves the president’s goal of creating a media narrative about his burning desire to put Americans back to work, consequences be damned.

Remember that the Obama re-election strategy is to play the martyr – victimized by Republicans in service of the noble goal of cleaning up Washington and putting Americans back to work.

He needs to get that story line polished up, though. So far, voters don’t seem to be listening. The president’s rating on handling the economy and the budget have worsened since he began his fall campaign swing with focus-group honed lines like “pass this bill” and “we can’t wait” and his overall job approval numbers have stayed in the low 40s.

Maybe it’s that Obama keeps implicating voters in the nation’s economic malaise, calling out Americans in recent weeks for being “soft,” without “ambition” and, on Saturday, “lazy.”

Obama may think that he is being like JFK and challenging the nation to strive higher and do better as he denigrates the national character and speaks enviously of the mass-transit and public works projects of China and other nations. But, especially as a child of postmodern privilege, Obama sounds like a snob when he says it.

The problem may be the goal. Bigger airports and faster locomotives don’t exactly get people pumped up like beating the commies or flying to the moon.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on