Today, Barack Obama won the battle, but will lose the war. The Supreme Court decision makes Obamacare the central issue in the 2012 election, just like it was in the 2010 election. And we know how that turned out.
The Court has sustained the individual mandate. That imposes on us a mandate: To defeat Obama and take the Senate. Now that is the only way we can kill this horrible law.
Public opinion has rejected this law for two years now by about the same margin: 40% support; 55% oppose. While the Court decision may give the law a short term positive bump, the underlying reality of the costs of the program and the increases in everyone’s health insurance rates it is already triggering will eliminate any near term gain. Ultimately, it will still be 40-55 against the law.
Right now, presidential polls show Romney and Obama both in the mid-40s. The single most unpopular thing Obama has done is the health care law. Now it is going to be the lynchpin issue. It means that the election itself will increasingly be polarized around opinions of the health care law – a fifteen point loser for the Democrats.
In a real sense, the Supreme Court did not let Obama off the hook by striking down the law. Now he will have to defend it during the election.
Remember what this law does. It requires everyone to spend upwards of 7 percent of their income on health insurance or pay a fine of several thousand dollars. Neither is an attractive alternative for the young and the poor who are the president’s political base. And, with the expansion of Medicaid rejected by the Court, the government will not be there to help them.
In 2010, Democrats running for Congress (most of whom lost) did not even attempt to defend Obamacare. They put as much distance between themselves and the law as they could. But now, neither Obama nor his Senate and House candidates will have that option since the Supreme Court has kicked the football back into political play.
The rejection of the Medicaid expansion is huge. This mandate – which would have quadrupled the Medicaid population in some states (like Texas) would have forced all states to pass income taxes and required those with them already to raise them substantially. It required coverage of about a quarter of the country under Medicaid, something the states cannot afford. Some saw it as a way to equalize the north and the south in taxes, eliminating the competitive advantage the south has long enjoyed.
As an American, I would have rather seen the individual mandate thrown out. As a partisan, I’m thrilled that we still have the issue to beat Obama with.
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