To: Interested Parties
From: Jonathan Collegio
Communications Director, American Crossroads
Re: Obamacare/SCOTUS political fallout
Date: June 28, 2012
As the legal arguments on today’s SCOTUS decision on Obamacare settle down, up bubble the political implications from the ruling and what it means for the 2012 elections.
In short: Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a millstone around the neck of any Democrat running for federal office in 2012.
“What,” one might say, “makes today different than yesterday? After all, many Democrats already had a vote in support of Obamacare in their files.”
The Supreme Court’s decision forces Obamacare to be litigated in the 2012 elections, and in virtually every case where Obamacare has been litigated by voters in an election, the law and its supporters lose. From Scott Brown’s wildly improbable victory in the 2010 Massachusetts special (where Obamacare was the overriding issue of the election) to the 2010 midterm elections (where Republicans picked up 63 house seats and six senate seats) when voters litigate Obamacare, Obamacare and its supporters lose.
Critically, Obamacare is no longer an abstraction – one of many datapoints that defines a candidate’s position in the electoral marketplace. It is no longer a past policy that a politician may have supported. Obamacare is now a real, concrete, tax-hiking and regulatory-expanding law that will or will not be repealed in January 2013 – depending on the outcome of the 2012 elections. Politicians who were safely able to passively support Obamacare in the past, will now have to actively defend their position against a repeal effort – with an election between now and then.
Obamacare, with its massive tax increases and regulatory expansions, is now one of the two central issues of the 2012 campaign. Instead of an unpopular policy “that was litigated in the past,” President Obama will have to aggressively defend and promote his signature policy against a popular repeal movement. He will no longer be able to point to the law’s talking-point sweeteners in isolation (26 year olds getting insurance, preexisting conditions, etc.); he will have to address the massive tax increases, the boards of unelected bureaucrats making healthcare decisions, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, and the countless other sour points of the law. Obama and Democrats now own an issue that is popular only with a small minority of partisans and ideologues, and which is wildly unpopular with older Americans and independent voters with high propensities to vote. There is no way, short of a major and successful repositioning of the law between now and November, for Democrat candidates for any federal office to benefit electorally from today’s Supreme Court decision.
Case in point: Rep. Joe Donnelly, a House Democrat from Indiana who is running for the Senate in the Hoosier State. In his 2010 reelection campaign to the U.S. House, Donnelly had to defend a vote on Obamacare that he took eight months earlier – which was on the books, but which folks were moving past. This year, Democrats like Donnelly must defend voting for the legislation and its massive tax hikes again – with an election between now and the vote for repeal. For Indiana voters, a vote for Joe Donnelly will literally become a vote for Obamacare. Similarly, we see Heidi Heitcamp and Richard Carmona – Democrats running for U.S. Senate in North Dakota and Arizona, respectively – who no longer have to defend a law that is on the books, but actively oppose what will be a very popular effort to repeal Obamacare. House Democrats campaigning across the country will find themselves in the same dilemma.
The future of Obamacare is no longer being litigated by the Courts. It is being litigated by the American people in the 2012 election – and in virtually every case where Obamacare is litigated by voters, the law and its supporters lose.
For Democrats – who must not only defend past positions, but actively oppose a popular repeal effort – November 2012 will not be a happy place.