Saturday, June 30, 2012

Race for the White House

This past Tuesday, voters cast ballots for President for the final time before the general election. Yes, the primary season finally ended with the state of Utah giving a victory to presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney with well over 90 percent of the vote. It seems like ages ago where people expected the GOP contest to last all the way through this final contest in late June, but as well all know, things were wrapped long ago.

The finish line for the GOP nomination voting though was of course not the main story of the week, nor was even the vote finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, the first sitting Cabinet Member ever to be so sanctioned. Instead the attention of the political world was turned to the Supreme Court, where besides for a mixed ruling on the Arizona immigration law, which displeased conservatives enough, folks on the right were left in an absolute and somewhat surprised state of anger and despair over the 5-4 vote which allowed Obamacare to stand, almost entirely, as constitutional. While the speculation had long been over the "swing vote" of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who in the end sided with the conservatives on the bench, the GOP nominated Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote and authored the majority opinion in which he, in voting along with the Court's liberal bloc voted to uphold Obamacare. The way things stand at the moment, Chief Justice Roberts, who has a lifetime seat on the Court, has now obtained lifelong scorn from the American Right, who feel betrayed.

The night of the ruling, I made some quick comments elsewhere on the internet in response to someone on the left who was gleefully declaring victory for Barack Obama over the ruling in which it was described as the "entire law" being upheld. I think it just might be appropriate to cut and paste most of what I said here, as evidence of my thinking of the day.

"The “entire law” was not upheld. A Medicaid expansion provision regarding the states was overturned, which would make it far easier theoretically for states to opt out of Medicare,and which would raise serious questions about how the entire law would function.
Very significantly, a majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate *was* unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause.That was always what this legal fight was supposed to be about. Politically, the Obama Administration and Democrats always claimed that this was legal because of the Commerce Clause and now they have been formally denied on that ground. That could have significant impact as a precedent in regards to future legislation.
Now on legal and constitutional grounds, conservatives, including myself of course, disagree a lot with the 5 Justices, including John Roberts, who somehow found the mandate legal as a “tax.” I think that is a bad precedent for the country, no doubt about that.
In regards to the politics, I will certainly admit that this is a legal victory for the Obama Administration, not on what they wanted regarding the Commerce Clause, but that the law is not being overturned. I would also certainly consider it a short term "news cycle” victory, and that might very well produce a short-term bump in the polls for Obama in the next week to month as persuadable, low-information voters, react to the headlines.
Many of my fellow conservatives were certainly livid today, and while I wanted to see the Court strike down Obamacare, I think they need a broader perspective. No, we did not get to watch Chris Matthews have a grabber on live television and we did not get to see Obama declared a loser on national television and have to face the cameras in that way, but there is a far more important thing at stake, and that is the election 131 day from now.
From the context of the 2012 election, I think the development today is bad news for Obama and Democrats. As I said, there may be an immediate short-term bump, but now this issue has drastically been altered in regards to the campaign.
I think the left and the White House, expected the mandate to be overturned, and were going to go respond by fighting back against the Court and Republicans, trying to demogogue about how people had lost health care, and were going to be bankrupted and thrown out in the street, etc. That is the kind of ground they are comfortable on.
Now, they don’t have that weapon to try to bludgeon the opposition with and to use to rally their base, financially and organizationally.
Republicans now do, and it should come to no surprise that Mitt Romney raised nearly 3 million dollars today. The majority of Americans still oppose Obamacare and conservatives are pissed beyond belief. They are now ultra-motivated to support Romney and the party’s Congressional candidates. We saw what happened in 2010 when Obamacare  was one of the major issues,and what happened today only continues the dynamic.
Since it was introduced, Obama and Democrats swore all over the place that it was “absolutely not” a tax. While their lawyers sort of conceded it was in the Supreme Court case, for political reasons, they did not want this described as a tax increase in any way. If it had been, it never would have passed. It can now fairly be pointed out that Obama lied to America by saying it was not a tax increase.
Instead of talking about how Obamacare being tossed out in total and the perceived human suffering that such a ruling would cause, the issue of health care moving forward for the rest of the campaign is now about taxes, spending, and the loss of jobs.
Considering the overall economic worry out there, that is not ground Obama and Democrats should be comfortable on. A major focal point of this election will now be a partisan divide over a huge tax increase. It will be talked about how the implementation of Obamacare will hurt people economically.
Whichever side “lost” today in the court and in the news cycle was going to win in regards to the fallout and intensity and motivation factor for the campaign.
Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that Obamacare is a huge tax increase, the largest in history,and if Obama and his supporters want to embrace this ruling, they have to embrace the fact that Obama raised taxes.
The bottom line is that what happened has motivated the right far more than it will the left and while what happened today in the SCOTUS was bad for America, it is good for Republicans in their trying to win an election later this year.
If Mitt Romney is elected President, along with a GOP Congress, besides for the fact that many states will immediately get a waiver to opt out of Obamacare, I believe a full repeal of the law will be passed and will be replaced with something far better.
“Obamacare” lives for now, but Republicans are now quite aware the only way to repeal and replace it is to repeal and replace Obama as President..

Politically speaking, the “tax” issue is very bad for Democrats, as it always has been. This is a pyrrhic victory for you guys, It would have been far easier for you in an election year to talk about heartless Republicans taking away healthcare from people with pre-existing conditions, etc.
The law would never have passed in 2009 if it was sold as a tax. Obama is on video swearing it was absolutely not a tax on multiple occasions. He now has to admit he was lying or was ruled wrong by the same Court ruling his people want to celebrate.......... You have absolutely no idea what this Supreme Court ruling has awakened among those who want to see Barack Obama defeated."
I think that pretty much covers my thoughts on what happened in a nutshell. There is a lot of speculation out there alleging that Roberts somehow changed his vote at the last minute after having originally striking down the law, but that and other conspiracy theories, and considerations of Roberts' true motives may never be known. The Chief Justice, appointed by President George W. Bush, is not a popular man right now in the Republican Party, but I have also seen it remarked how Roberts is somehow some sort of "evil genius" in ruling the way he did, essentially throwing the matter back to the people and giving them motivation to cast their ballots in a specific way.
Amid all the hoopla, it is certainly worth mentioning once again, that Mitt Romney wound up raising over $4.6 million in the 24 hours after the ruling and has clearly established himself as someone who opposes the Obamacare ruling. Early polling from a handful of states from Survey USA show that there is a general disagreement with the ruling as well, while a national poll from Gallup shows a complete split in public opinion.
I maintain it will now be easier for Romney to run against Obama as a tax raiser and job killer, while Democrats will try to point out that in Massachusetts, Romney supported and defended a state bill that imposed a penalty on those who did not purchase insurance while maintaining it was not a "tax."
As was the case in the primaries, I still believe that it is harder to tie Romney to Obamacare for a variety of reasons, just one of which being that the federal controversy is what is being examined as part of a Presidential campaign. Romney can point to a score of differences between what he did as Governor and what Democrats did nationally, and the current economic situation will now play an ever larger part of the contrast.
In my Thursday evening comments, I mentioned that I expected to see a temporary poll bump for Obama, and that indeed seems to presently be the case, as I think it began even before the Supreme Court ruling. I am not the least bit surprised by this and as an ardent Romney supporter am not overly concerned either. Comments I read online from many of my fellow conservatives have them full of doom and gloom again about the election, while others rightly recognize the longer-term political ramifications of the Court decision. After having watched a few Presidential campaigns in my lifetime, I know that this stuff is full of ups and downs and that momentum often swings back and forth. 
While Obama has inched ahead by a couple points now in national polls, state polling still point to a potentially very close Electoral College situation. None of that is changed from what was going on last week, or last month. In the grand scheme of things, Obama's "bounce" is relatively minor, and I do not think it will be the last one he will have. For example, while more and more Democrats decide they will not go to Charlotte and stand on the podium with Obama at the convention, I will be quite surprised if he does not get at least a modest bump after that event and if he is not leading Romney in the polls immediately after.
In many regards, June was a bad month for the Obama Administration, but for the short-term at least, they can breathe a sigh of relief over recent Supreme Court decisions. I almost feel though as if the Obama campaign is somewhat disappointed they do not have a rallying cause to anger and fear to campaign on regarding health care. 
Recent days point to a slight Obama comeback in the polls, but the Romney team will rightfully point out that this all happened with the Democrats significantly outspending Republicans on the airwaves with anti-Romney ads over this period of time.
With indications in place, that Romney and his allies will actually be able to outspend their opponents as the campaign advances, and with a fired-up and yes, pissed off base of conservatives ready to surpass what they did in 2010, the battle is just beginning.