Nothing galvanized and united conservatives more than President Barack Obama’s overreach on Obamacare. During the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Obamacare was an albatross around Mitt Romney’s neck and may still be, because many of Obamacare’s provisions — such as the individual mandate — was directly based on Romney’s Massachusetts health care experiment, which has been dubbed “Romneycare.”
Romney could have won over and better united conservatives behind him had he apologized for Romneycare and made the argument he would be the best person able to fix the mistake that is Obamacare, based on his experiences with Romneycare. Scared he would again be labeled a flip-flopper with no core except his own ambition and political advancement, Romney did not apologize for Romneycare and even defended it. Doubling down on that blunder, Romney announced that Mike Leavitt, who has been an advocate for implementing Obamacare and whose business interests have benefited from some of its provisions, would lead his transition team.
Yet, the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare may give conservatives uncomfortable with Romney two important reasons not to sit on the sidelines this November.
First, the Supreme Court Justices are getting up in age, and at it is not at all unreasonable to predict that three to five justices could leave the court by decade’s end. Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 79 years old and a cancer survivor. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia is 76. Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer is 73 and Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s perpetual swing vote, is 75.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare will put the Court front and center and remind conservatives that two more Elena Kagans or Sonia Sotomayors on the Court will threaten conservatism for a generation and would be more unpalatable than even four more years of an Obama presidency.
Second, especially since Republicans will have more numbers in both chambers of Congress than they did in 2008, Republicans will be in a stronger position to both pass and repeal laws.
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said in the weekly Republican address on Saturday that “President Obama’s health care law not working — it makes things worse by driving up health care costs, making it harder for small businesses to hire workers,” and “the only way to change this is by repealing ObamaCare entirely.”
“Unless the Court throws out the entire law, we should repeal what is left and implement common-sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at the lowest cost,” Cassidy said.
Even if Republicans control both chambers of Congress, they will be neutered if Obama is able to veto any piece of legislation that is passed, and Obamacare could be a tangible example Romney can use to remind conservatives that Republicans will not be able to repeal or pass legislation without a Republican president.
In essence, the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare can give Romney a chance to turn an issue that was one of his greatest liabilities among conservatives into one of the strongest arguments for conservatives to be enthusiastic about his candidacy. Whichever way the Court rules on Obamacare, the next health care battles will be more easily won with a Republican president and a less liberal Court.