“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 1, 2012

Health Care Debate.jpg

(Providence, Rhode Island) – The health care reform ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court was the big story of the week. But what is the political fallout and what are the implications for the November election? Let’s take a look:

“Winning by Losing?” – The short-term victory goes to President Obama. His health care law survived a Constitutional challenge fully intact. But will that victory translate to votes? Anger is a great political motivator, and whoever lost this decision was bound to be angry. If Republicans can sustain their anger and that motivates their voter base (and independents) in the fall, then they might just take the White House and the Senate. This is how they won the House in 2010. On the other hand, voter anger can dissipate over time. The Supreme Court ruled on June 28, eighteen weeks before the November election. The timing may help the Democrats if voter frustration fades.

“The Supreme Court is Like a Box of Chocolates” – Yes, as Forrest Gump famously stated, “You never know what you are going to get!” Few would have predicted that Chief Justice John Roberts would have been the deciding vote and would have even written the majority opinion. But I do find it odd that so many conservatives are now cannibalizing him. Yes it was a big vote, but the majority of the time he’s been a reliable conservative voice on the Court and likely will be for years to come. Calls for his head have been hasty and are probably provoked by the anger mentioned above. This, too, shall pass.

“By the Numbers” – Opponents of health care reform now have only one venue for recourse: repealing the health care law. If Mitt Romney wins the White House and if Republicans win control of the Senate and maintain their majority in the House, they can do it with a simple majority vote. If President Obama wins reelection and if Republicans win control of both chambers of Congress, they would need a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate for repeal. (That assumes they repeal the law in Congress and Mr. Obama vetoes it. According to the Constitution, you need two thirds of the House and the Senate to override a veto. That’s a very difficult road).

“Obama Has a Tax Problem” – Perhaps the biggest weapon provided to the Republicans in this decision is the word “tax.” Proponents of health care reform – especially President Obama - said the penalty for not buying mandatory health insurance was a fine, not a tax. But their lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that Congress could levy the penalty based on its Constitutional authority to tax the citizens. The Court ruled it is, in fact, a tax! You can expect to see over and over again this fall GOP campaign ads showing President Obama telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos that "It is absolutely not a tax increase." Ouch!

“On the Other Hand” – While the GOP has the upper hand on the tax aspect of the Court ruling, Democrats have the upper hand with those who currently have no health insurance. The estimates vary wildly – from 30 to 50 million uninsured Americans – and so the Democrats have an advantage in telling these people they will receive health coverage soon. One can envision their campaign ads featuring that promise.

“The Bottom Line” – If I were advising Republican campaign strategists for Congressional races and the White House, my advice would be: “Make health care reform an economic issue!” If I were advising Democratic campaign strategists, I would say: “Make health care reform a medical issue!” I bet this is how each side will frame the issue. We’ll see this fall!

“It’s Still All About the Economy!” – The health care debate is hot now, but could fade. If unemployment doesn’t start trending downward – and it only has five months to do so – the President could be in big trouble. My guess is that if you gave voters the choice of having a job or having health insurance – but not both – most would pick the job. That may be all this race comes down to!

As always, please chime in with your thoughts, opinions, disagreements or questions. Just click the comment button on www.MarkCurtisMedia.com

© 2012 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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