Obamacare Ruling Looms Over Obama, Romney Campaigns
May 21, 2012 2 Comments
It’s no secret that we here at Steven Birn Speaks are poll watchers. These days the Obama-Romney matchup is more or less a statistical tie according to Rasmussen and Gallup. That equates to a Romney victory as generally speaking 80% of undecided voters end up voting against the incumbent. Thus a 45-45 tie in the polls is really a 53-47 Romney lead. Obviously the number of people undecided will shift before election day. But on election day, those who are undecided will mostly shift towards the challenger.
Having said all of that, we cannot forget it’s only May. We have just under six months to go before the election. A lot can change between now and November. In fact, a lot will change and not just on the economy which is presumably the number one issue heading into the election. The big elephant in the room is the Obamacare case at the Supreme Court. How that case is decided will set up the 2012 election, even more so than the economy provided there isn’t a massive downturn. (it’s too late for a massive upswing)
If Obamacare’s individual mandate is ruled constitutional it’s a big feather in the cap of Obama. He can run around the country pointing to Obamacare as his big first term achievement and he can tell the people he should be the one to fully implement it during his second term. It’s a solid argument. But we cannot forget that the polls show that 60% of the country wants Obamacare repealed. In other words, Obama may win the argument on constitutionality but lose because his signature piece of legislation is simply unpopular.
A ruling that the individual mandate is constitutional would certainly fuel Obama and his supporters but it could arguably work up Republicans more than any other issue. Nothing may galvanize Republicans more behind Mitt Romney than the threat of Obamacare being fully implemented by Obama. Romney has pledged to sign the repeal of Obamacare, that pledge alone could propel him into the White House on a wave of anti-Obamacare electoral storm. There isn’t another issue that could cause Republicans to back Romney more than a Constitutional ruling from the court on Obamacare.
If Obamacare’s individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional or the whole thing is ruled unconstitutional it would be a major blow for Obama. His signature piece of legislation will have been ruled unconstitutional. A Constitutional law professor’s signature piece of legislation no less. That’s a serious problem for Obama. But he can recover from it based on his reaction to such a ruling. If he spends his time attacking the Supreme Court, he’ll lose. But if he instead pushes for individual bills enshrining parts of Obamacare into law, particularly the popular portions of it like the pre-existing conditions clause, he could come out victorious.
Romney already appears behind the eight ball concerning what to do without Obamacare. He’s talked about vague free market solutions but he doesn’t seem to have a plan. He really needs come up with a solid alternative to Obamacare, since a Romney Presidency will result in the elimination of Obamacare. In fact, Romney could shift the polls by coming out with a solid, free market plan before the Supreme Court rules on the matter. That said if the individual mandate is ruled constitutional, Romney’s response to the ruling will be just as important as Obama’s.
The Obamacare ruling, due out late next month, will be the opening shot in the 2012 election cycle. There will be plenty to talk about before then as Obama attempts to define Romney from his bully pulpit. But in terms of polls, they aren’t going to matter a whole lot because they will shift substantially after the court rules. They may even shift twice depending on how the candidates respond to the ruling. This decision will determine how the fall narrative goes. This election isn’t just about the economy, it’s also about Obamacare or what will replace Obamacare.