Could defeat for Obamacare mean victory for Obama?

By MARK PENN
Published March 30, 2012

If the Supreme Court knocks out the guts of the Affordable Care Act — the individual mandate requiring people to purchase health insurance or pay a fine — the battle within the Obama campaign will be fierce. The president will be faced with two stark alternatives: launch the political equivalent of a drone strike on the Supreme Court and use the ruling to energize his base, or accept the decision and move on, hoping to neutralize the divisive law in the general election.

In the first scenario, President Obama would double down rather than back down. So far, he has shown no willingness to compromise on the individual mandate despite massive public opposition to the measure. In the face of a Supreme Court ruling against the law, a defiant president may seek to make an even more strident case for his vision for health care in America.

Already, the talking points for a war on the high court are being put in place by organizations such as the Center for American Progress. The story line is simple and potentially effective: From Bush v. Gore in 2000 to the Citizens United decision in 2010 to the possible Obamacare ruling, the Supreme Court puts politics above the people in the name of the Constitution.

This argument could play among an electorate predisposed to suspect the worst.A Bloomberg News survey taken shortly before the oral arguments found that 75 percent of Americans believe that politics will influence the justices’ decision on the health-care law. If the court kills the act, then Washington is reduced to a triple play of gridlock — between the president, Congress and the Supreme Court, nothing gets done.

The Obama campaign could paint the court as out of step with the modern world, in which the state needs to help redress the inadequacies of global and national markets. After all, the mandate is about everyone paying their fair share toward health care; it eliminates free-riders from the system.

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TIME Ideas: How Will the Supreme Court’s Decision on Health Care Affect The Election?

  TIME IDEAS
How Will the Supreme Court’s Decision on Health Care Affect The Election?

Republican strategist Karen Hughes and Democratic pollster Mark Penn in their bi-weekly faceoff about Election 2012

Penn: Overturning the healthcare law would be a drastic curtailing of Congressional power that will set off a political firestorm that won’t be good for the Court or the body politic.

The Court would in essence be saying that universal healthcare will either have to be provided to everyone at no charge or that requiring people to pony up for healthcare they need will require a constitutional amendment, just as the income tax needed one back in 1913.

Faith in government institutions is already at a record low. Just last fall Gallup reported that 81% of Americans expressed “historic negativity” towards the U.S. government. Yesterday a Bloomberg News poll showed that 75% percent of Americans believe that the Justices’ health care vote will be influenced by their personal politics.

Although this healthcare plan is not popular in recent national polls (47% against in the New York Times/ CBS poll; 42% against in the Washington Post/ ABC poll) such a ruling would put a fork in the ability for Congress to legislate universal healthcare. It would disillusion people even further – Congress doesn’t act much now and when it does it gets overturned. This would be the triple play of gridlock – from the President to Congress to the Court, nothing gets done.

If this suit against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is successful, then perhaps people would want to re-open the requirements for wearing seatbelts or banning kids from sitting in the front seat under age 12. Maybe the mileage standards would have to be rolled back or the EPA standards we have come to rely upon to protect our air. Perhaps we need to reconsider Social Security under similar grounds. Advocates of more states’ rights would use the decision to re-open the debate of the general power and authority of the federal government.

The Republicans would cheer a ruling overturning the plan as a major victory. I think it would boomerang though as the American public doesn’t want to be denied a path to universal care and the decision would create a rallying cry for President Obama and his campaign. The conservative judges would be seen as once again having put a political rather than a legal stamp of opinion on the bill. The politically surer path for the Court would be to let universal healthcare be a matter between the President, Congress and the voters. If they don’t like the plan – and a lot of people don’t – then people can exercise their rights this November. Stopping Congress under any circumstances from requiring people to get healthcare to protect themselves and the greater community seems at best anachronistic and would only further undermine a political system already under a cloud of doubt.

Read the full article at TIME Ideas

Polioptics: Mark Penn and Karen Hughes discuss U.S. politics [Audio]

Mark Penn and Karen Hughes discussed U.S. politics on the radio show “Polioptics” this week. Listen to the full podcast

TIME Ideas: Why Are Obama’s Numbers Falling?

  TIME IDEAS
Why Are Obama’s Numbers Falling?

Republican strategist Karen Hughes and Democratic pollster Mark Penn in their bi-weekly faceoff about Election 2012

Penn: The sobering numbers coming from the polls the past few days show that to win re-election, President Obama must do more than simply ask for another four years to let his policies work. He has to make a major leap into the center to deal with the volatility coming from the record number of independent voters in the electorate. His job approval is at 41% in the latest New York Times/CBS poll and 46% in the Washington Post/ABC News poll.

The developing storyline was that an improving economy mixed with a divided Republican electorate should have shot President Obama’s numbers sky high, putting the race out of reach for the Republicans. But the public wants to see more than just job growth — they want to see President Obama grow in the job. They are concerned that difficult situations in Iran and Afghanistan are raising the stakes on who occupies the Oval Office, as his foreign-affairs numbers dropped 10 points in New York Times/CBS poll. And while the fight over contraception coverage energized the base, it also revealed a more divided electorate on the issue than expected when it comes to rules for religious institutions.

I have to admit, I was ready to say that the President had turned the corner based on recent events and that his campaign seemed to have reached a more even footing compared with the rocky and chaotic Republican primary. But numbers like these send you back to first principles: 1) the President has to keep working to overcome doubts about his leadership by being a President first, not a candidate; 2) he has to move more decisively into the center, which means less about raising taxes and more about streamlining and modernizing government; and 3) he has to run on a forward-looking and comprehensive economic plan that deals directly not only with spending but also with trade, immigration, energy prices and a host of other issues holding the country back from real economic growth in the 21st century.

Americans remain moody and pessimistic about government and everyone in it; however, they remain open to President Obama. These unexpectedly low polls serve as a warning sign that he has to keep searching for the right key to the door of re-election.

Hughes: Gas prices and federal budget deficits are rising, and so are tensions in the world. If they aren’t already, alarm bells should be sounding at President Obama’s campaign, because these two new polls, the New York Times/CBS News and Washington Post/ABC News, show Americans are not at all happy with the way the President is dealing with those issues and are deeply worried about the President’s performance — or more accurately, his failure to perform — both at home and abroad. These polls are the most recent reminder of just how vulnerable the incumbent President is during this election year.

Gas prices and federal budget deficits are rising, and so are tensions in the world. If they aren’t already, alarm bells should be sounding at President Obama’s campaign, because these two new polls, the New York Times/CBS News and Washington Post/ABC News, show Americans are not at all happy with the way the President is dealing with those issues and are deeply worried about the President’s performance — or more accurately, his failure to perform — both at home and abroad. These polls are the most recent reminder of just how vulnerable the incumbent President is during this election year.

Read the full article at TIME Ideas

Meet the Press: Election 2012 on PRESS Pass [Video]

Mark Penn and Whit Ayres discuss the 2012 race and how Mitt Romney will stack up against the president in the fall.

Watch the video at MSNBC PRESS Pass

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