A long while ago I expressed that Obama lost the Obamacare litigation politically the moment the Supreme Court decided to take the case on a track to render a decision before the election. (Can’t find the post, help!)[see Update]
My view was that a total legal victory would motivate Republicans and center-right independents much as in 2010. A total loss would render much of Obama’s first term at best a waste of time. A split decision has a little of both bads.
David Dayen at the liberal Firedoglake sees it the same way in a post today, The Health Care Lose-Lose Scenario Facing Democrats:
With the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act only days away, I have tried to play out all the potential ways the Court could rule and what they would mean on a purely political level this election. As best as I can tell, any Court decision is likely to be either a political wash for Democrats or a net loser. It is hard to make a case that any of the three most likely outcomes would really help Democrats or Obama this November….
While I don’t see how the Court deciding to leave the law in place would rally the Democratic base, there is a very good chance it could rally the Republican base. 2010 showed that Obamacare didn’t rally Democrats, but the desire to repeal it was able to energize Republicans. If the court upholds the law, Republicans’ only chance of getting rid of it will be to elect Mitt Romney, so the Romney campaign should be able to use it to build enthusiasm for his campaign….
The Court striking down the whole law would be devastating for President Obama and declared a huge loss for him by the media. Republicans would have bragging rights and “proof” that Obama overreached….
Even a limited ruling against the law would be a validation for Republicans and “proof” that Obama overreached. The validation of the Republican argument against the health care law might make the law even less popular and get the GOP base enthusiastic to finish the entire job of repealing it by electing Romney.
Under what decision scenario could Obama benefit?
Update: Thanks to commenter tomg for finding the lost post, Politically, Republicans cannot lose a 2012 Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, September 29, 2011:
If the Supreme Court finds the mandate to be unconstitutional, it will deflate Obama’s presidency. In one fell swoop, the entirety of Obama’s agenda will come crashing down. It will be a political and personal humiliation.
If the Supreme Court upholds the mandate, Obama will be able to crow a little, but such a decision will leave the majority of people who hate the law with but one alternative: Throw Obama and Senate Democrats out in November 2012.
A pro-Obamacare ruling prior to the election will motivate the Republican base like nothing else, and will bring the independents along. If you thought the summer of 2009 was hot, just wait until the summer of 2012 if the only way for the nation to get out from under Obamacare is at the ballot box in November.