This morning, the Times John Harwood tweeted that “Strategists for Teams Obama/Romney agree: Court ruling is best POLITICAL outcome for Mitt.” He’s one of the best reporters out there. So I have no doubt that is what they think. Moreover, the ordinary laws of political kinetics would suggest this is true. Romney and the Republicans get back ‘Obamacare’ as a big issue for the campaign rather than having the Court take it off the table.
But I don’t buy it.In politics like in everything else, wins tend to generate more wins. They excite the winners and demoralize the losers, especially when the losers were certain they were about to win big. Getting the wind knocked out of you and desperately choking for breath for a minute on the field isn’t a plus.
So a loss for the opponents of ‘Obamacare’ strikes me as what it is: a loss for the opponents of ‘Obamacare.’ On all levels.
There are two more specific reasons I think this is true.
1. As our Sahil Kapur chronicled at great length earlier this month, in anticipation of the Court striking down the law, congressional Republicans went to great lengths to map out all the parts of ‘Obamacare’ they wanted to keep. That will at a minimum create channel conflict as they now go back to full fire-breathing opposition to every part of it.
2. ‘Obamacare’ as a phrase is demonstrably unpopular. Just as clearly, it’s not what the vast majority of at up for grabs voters care about right now. It’s just not what the election is about right now. And I don’t think it’s going back. The issue is jobs and the economy. Putting health care repeal at the center of Romney’s campaign distracts from his core issue: jobs and the economy. It would seem like what it is, a sop to core supporters at the cost of indifference to the concerns of swing voters.
Those are tactical points — reasons I think the politics aren’t as straightforward for the Republicans as you might imagine. But fundamentally, this is human nature. Wins empower the winners, not the losers. Don’t overthink it. The election is still about the two candidates and the economy. But this is a win for the President — on the substance and the politics.