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Updated Jun 15, 2012 - 8:05 am

Downfall of health care reform could benefit Obama

National health care reform is perhaps the single most
controversial and recognizable piece of legislation
shepherded into law by President Barack Obama. As the
Supreme Court works to determine the legislation’s
fate, common sense suggests the law’s downfall would
deal a significant blow to Obama’s re-election
hopes.

In actuality, the demise of health care reform could
infuse the president’s campaign with a much-needed
dose of energy.

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)
was signed into law in March 2010, it signaled a landmark
accomplishment for Obama. Many presidents had worked
toward substantive reform for decades, but it was Obama
who made this Democratic fantasy an American reality.

However, the victory came with a heavy price. The
president expended a significant amount of political
capital securing the support of enough hesitant members of
Congress within his own party. Perhaps more importantly,
the legislation passed with virtually no bipartisan
support. In fact, almost immediately after Republicans
regained control of the House of Representatives, they
expressed their displeasure by passing a bill with the
not-so-subtle title, “Repealing the job-
killing healthcare law act.

The repeal measure was little more than a symbolic gesture
of disapproval due to the fact Democrats still controlled
the Senate. Nonetheless, while Congress was busy engaging
in a war of words, a battle on another front was gaining
momentum.

On Nov. 14, 2011, the Supreme Court indicated it
would hear arguments relative to the constitutionality of
various aspects of ACA. Both Democrats and Republicans
expressed confidence their sides would emerge victorious.

Over the course of three days in March 2012, the Supreme
Court devoted an uncharacteristically excessive
six hours of arguments on the controversial health care
law. While rumors
frequently appear suggesting the court’s decision is
just around the corner, opinions are likely to be released
at the end of the court’s term later this month.

On the surface, it would seem as if the downfall of
Obama’s signature achievement would be devastating
to his re-election hopes
.

If ACA were to fall completely or be broken apart piece by
piece, Obama’s reputation and campaign hopes could
be charred by the flames of a Supreme Court rebuke.

At the same time, the downfall of health care reform could
come with a silver lining shiny enough to help Obama rally
his political troops and supporters.

While Obama struggled in the 2008 presidential primaries
before ultimately defeating then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-
N.Y., he cruised to victory over Sen. John McCain, R-
Ariz., in the general election.

For many today, selective memories of an above-the-fray
candidate who transcended barriers of age, race and gender
stand in contrast to daily portrayals of contemporary
Obama as an incumbent immersed in the muddy waters of
dirty politics often embraced by both major political
parties.

Former President Bill Clinton has gone on public record (and off the
campaign’s talking points) saying, “I
don’t think I should have to say bad things about
Gov. (Mitt) Romney personally to disagree with him
politically.”

Alexander Burns and John F. Harris say that Clinton
is not making statements such as this to do Romney any
favors but rather out of an awareness that “swing
voters in particular hate what they see as mindless combat
and will reward people they believe are debating in good
faith.”

Obama’s failed attempts to demonize Romney by
highlighting his connections with private equity
illustrate the shaky ground of a campaign built on
demonization.

Additionally, Obama’s emphasis on economic recovery
appears to be hurting him even more than demonizing
Romney’s association with private equity. James
Carville, the legendary Clinton strategist responsible for
the campaign slogan, “It’s the economy,
stupid,” highlights the dangers of continuing to
focus on economic recovery when so many Americans are
struggling economically.

Carville recently told ABC, “I’m worried
that when the White House or the campaign talks about the
progress that’s being made, people take that as a
signal that they think that things are fine and people
don’t feel they ought to believe that.”

The Obama campaign that was famous for connecting with
voters in 2008 is having trouble relating to both its base
and critical independent voters in 2012.

Those who favor Obama but feel disillusioned by a focus on
“demonization and economic recovery” in lieu of “hope and
change” may not have an incentive strong enough to flock
to the polls in November. However, a potential blow to
health care reform by the Supreme Court could be just the
shot in the arm the Obama campaign needs to re-energize
its supporters.

Although the president would likely prefer not to see his
landmark health care legislation dismantled by the Supreme
Court, such an outcome could serve as a catalyst to
energize voters unaccustomed to the 2012 version of Obama
as a candidate.

If ACA is burned to the ground by the Supreme Court, newly
energized Obama supporters may rise from the ashes hoping
the president who helped build health care reform once can
do it again.

Kurt Manwaring is a
consultant with Manwaring Consulting, LLC. He maintains a
personal blog at www.kurtsperspective.blogspot.com.

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