Conservatives took a two-by-four across the brow Thursday morning, dazed by the Court's ruling on Obamacare. Some are wailing and gnashing their teeth, others calling Cheif Justice Roberts a "traitor," without merit. OK, stop. This actually is a positive for the Romney campaign, and for Republicans down the ballot. As I tweeted that morning, "This re-ignites the Tea Party." And yet there's more. This is a gift that keeps on giving.
Wednesday I posted a column in which I stated that, counterintuitively, a total upholding of the ACA might in fact be the worst possible outcome for President Obama's election prospects. I didn't foresee it happening, especially not through the taxation/payment legerdemain of Roberts. But for all intents and purposes, the ACA was upheld in toto. As I wrote the day before the ruling, "if the Court upholds the ACA, Obama's primary political promise of 2008 would be fulfilled. His supporters would be joyous, but also somehow surfeited, their greatest hopes realized. On the other hand, his opponents would be rejuvenated in their passion. They would work tirelessly to repeal the law." The more I analyze it, I see this as a boon for Romney and Congressional Republicans.
Well, against all odds and prognostications, it has happened. Let's look at the effect on some component parts. First, the social liberal Left is thrilled. (Just tune into MSNBC to catch that post-orgasmic glow feel.) They are not only vindicated but, far more to the point, they are satiated. Their decades-long dream of universal health care has been realized. This harms the President, as fat and happy supporters are not as motivated as those seeking some new promised land (such as Hope and Change Land of 2008, where Universal Health Care-ville was located). His base will be subconsciously undermotivated.
His biggest nemesis, the Tea Party, which has been active but relatively subdued since 2010, will conversely be absolutely emboldened by this outcome. Even a partial overturning would have mollified them; a total overturning would have taken away their original raison d'etre. Now, that central cause of their aborning, Obamacare, is back, and unless there is a Republican Congress and President, the despised (for them) ACA is now unstoppable. This fact will fire these Constitutional patriots into an election task force for Romney. Indeed, in my estimation, the one advantage Obama still had over Romney was his ground game. This just equalized that factor. The Tea Party will start to rally this week, and they won't stop knocking on doors and making phone calls until November. This is an inestimable and enormous benefit to Romney and all conservative candidates.
I also Tweeted that this decision would boost Romney's fundraising, and sure enough he had raised a million dollars online within five hours of the announcement. Business will also step up their donations, as only Romney stands between them and a tax increase.
And that last phrase is the gift that may well win the election for Romney. When Chief Justice Roberts said the mandate was OK as a tax, not a fee/penalty, he seemed to create a gift for Obama. But in fact, this lexographic transformation immediately made the ACA into a $500 billion dollar tax increase, mainly on the middle class, no less. From the 60's on, the Republicans had a three-legged stool to defeat Democrats: taxes, crime and Communism. In 1988, one ad about being soft on criminals turned the tide away from Dukakis and towards a Bush I landslide. This decision will forever brand President Obama as a "Tax and Spend Liberal," precisely what he pledged not to be back in 2008. He vowed to balance budgets, and to provide health care by cutting costs without raising taxes. All those promises have been broken. Perhaps no moniker was more successful for Republicans from 1968 to 1988 than the phrase "Tax and Spend Liberal." I recommend Mr. Romney try it on a few times this week as he makes the media rounds. It may well be the password that gets him into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.