Over the last two days, Barack Obama’s reelection strategy has become clear. If the health care law is overturned, he will run against the Supreme Court. If the law is upheld, he will run against Paul Ryan. But what would the first scenario look like?
On the one hand, a Supreme Court reversal of the president’s signature domestic achievement would fire up the Democratic base. Liberals would be outraged. It would help the Obama campaign get turnout among minorities and younger voters to approach the improbable 2008 levels, as the president would treat it as an undemocratic attack on his legitimacy. It would help solve whatever enthusiasm problems remain among liberal voters.
The flip side is that the law is unpopular, especially among groups the president needs to win reelection and who in some cases exist in larger numbers than liberals. Many Americans believe Obamacare is unconstitutional and would like to see it repealed one way or another. Is Obama really going to campaign on reinstating a law large numbers of swing voters intensely dislike? It seems to be a good way to remind independents of what they came to dislike about the administration and its policies.
Obama may be hoping for an assist from Mitt Romney, his likeliest Republican challenger. A Supreme Court decision against the individual mandate would in many respects help Romney neutralize the issue. But Obama will probably use it to muddy distinctions between the two major party candidates on health care while reminding liberals that some Republicans didn’t have a problem with the mandate before the Democrats took office. Whether that strategy would work is less clear.