The Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act, particularly Justice Roberts siding with the liberals, took most everyone by surprise this morning. But if you tune in to Fox News or surf around the conservative blogs, they seem to be taking it somewhat philosophically. They're not happy, but there's little rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. Mostly they're saying, well, we'll just have to win this in November (see here for a representative sample). There's also a good deal of discussion of the fact that the Court declared that the requirement to carry health insurance is permissible under the government's taxing power. After all, if there's one thing Republicans know how to do, it's complain about taxes. Mitch McConnell quickly took to the floor of the Senate to condemn the decision, and no doubt Mitt Romney will soon say something so vague that no one can determine what he actually thinks.
But here's my guess: Republicans are going to drop health care very quickly.
Campaign professionals tend to believe that the most potent attack you can make uses your opponents own words against him, preferably if they're on video and can be replayed over and over. If you don't have that, it helps to have third-party validation of your attack from the most credible, non-partisan source you can find. Which is why it's so helpful when an established news organization reports something damaging about your opponent, which you can then talk about and put in your ads. If the third-party source is credible enough, you won't have to argue about whether the allegation is true, but merely about what it means and how much it matters.
Which is why the Obama campaign was so pleased when the Washington Post reported that under Mitt Romney (and after he departed), Bain Capital invested in a number of companies that specialized in helping other companies outsource work to foreign countries. Not only was this new information that could be used to attack Romney, but it had the imprimatur of the Post. Within days, the story was showing up in the president's speeches and the campaign's ads. So the Romney campaign is doing what it can to wind back the clock on the story:
If you look closely at the latest poll from TheWall Street Journal and NBC News, you can see the outlines of victory for either Obama or Romney. The top line result is where it’s been for the last two months—Obama leads Romney, 47 percent to 44 percent. He wins 92 percent of African Americans, 52 percent of women, 66 percent of Latinos, 52 percent of voters ages 18 to 29, and 40 percent of independents. By contrast, Romney is ahead among Tea Party supporters (94 percent to 1 percent), whites (53 percent to 38 percent), and men (48 percent to 43 percent).
These guys aren't too worried about owning health care.
In the search for silver linings to a Supreme court decision striking down part or all of the Affordable Care Act, many people have suggested that should it happen, Americans will turn all their displeasure about the health care system on conservatives. Specifically, it is that that they will "own" the health care system. James Carville says that if the ACA is overturned on a 5-4 vote, "The Republican party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future." Former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger says, "If the court were to strike down this major reform effort, 40 years in the making, the court would own the resulting health care system for the next decade and beyond. It’s a slightly highbrow version of the universal rule: 'You broke it, you bought it.'" The Republican party is one thing, but the Supreme Court "owing" health care? What does that mean? That people will be protesting outside the Court when their premiums go up? First of all, they won't, and second of all, I don't think the Court's conservative justices could care less if they did.
The latest Public Policy Polling survey of Ohio illustrates my point this morning about the Obama campaign’s effort to keep Romney from consolidating disaffected white voters. Obama still leads Romney in the Buckeye State, 47 percent to 44 percent, but that lead has declined from 50 percent and 49 percent in previous polls.
(AP Photo/ U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte)
Lieutenant General William Caldwell, a rising star in the Army who formerly oversaw the training of Afghan security forces, was recently accused of impeding a 2010 investigation of corruption in the Afghan military medical corps to avoid affecting the outcome of congressional elections, as reported by Danger Room.
Caldwell, who now commands the U.S. Army North based in Texas, was supposedly worried that a revelation of mismanagement and neglect would hurt Democrats’ electoral chances, damaging the close rapport he enjoyed with Obama.
MSNBC’s First Read has an excellent take on the Romney campaign’s flexibility, or lack thereof:
If there is a constant criticism about Mitt Romney and his campaign from both the left and right, it’s that they’re not nimble – especially when it comes to dealing with issues they’d prefer to ignore. […]
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Much of a president’s job is crisis management, and the only way to succeed is being nimble. That Team Romney seems to struggle with this aspect of the job is a potential warning sign for a challenger against an incumbent president.
When the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, many people predicted that big corporations would start buying elections, now that they were allowed to spend as much money as they wanted on campaigns. While that certainly might happen in the future, it hasn't happened so far, probably because they're worried about the PR backlash that could result from too much partisan activity. Instead, the ones donating millions have been extremely rich individuals, most of whom are Republicans. But that doesn't mean corporations don't have clever ways of playing the political game. To wit:
Your questions frighten me. Please speak to my press secretary. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Mitt Romney adopted a clever strategic vagueness strategy on yesterday's immigration ruling, which so far hasn't seemed to get anyone too angry at him (although I doubt it will do anything to stanch the bleeding of Latino votes away from him. As somebody tweeted yesterday, if you asked Romney what kind of pizza he wanted, he'd reply that Barack Obama has failed to lead on pizza choices. We've often talked about how uncomfortable Romney is when he gets questioned about his policy positions, but we should take a moment to extend our sympathies to the people who actually have to do most of the talking at times like this, the beleaguered campaign flaks whose job it is to say the things Mitt Romney would say if he were talking to reporters, and not say the things he wouldn't say. One of those flaks, Rick Gorka, found himself surrounded by reporters after the ruling and had to deliver one of the most painful dances of evasion you'll ever see. It went on and on, but here's a taste. You can almost see his soul slipping out of his body and finding an overhead bin to curl up in until it's all over:
Thanks to recent stories by the Washington Post and the New York Times, Bain Capital is back in the news. In particular, there’s a renewed focus on outsourcing; both newspapers found that Bain “pioneered” outsourcing during the 1990s, when it was led by Mitt Romney. This is an irresistible target for any political campaign, and it comes as no surprise to see that it forms the core of a new ad from the Obama team, where the campaign asks–pointedly–“does America need an outsourcer-in-chief?”
This was clearly the question in the Mitt Romney camp this morning, as the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law came down: How little can we get by with saying? When it comes to practically any issue beyond the economy, the clear challenge for the Romney campaign has become how to say something that offends no one, while still giving all sides of the issue a fig leaf to latch onto. Also, of course, how to make everything a referendum on Obama, so that maybe it won’t matter that Romney says nada.
Two weeks ago, President Obama put Mitt Romney in a tough position with his DREAM Act by executive action—with a policy on the table, Romney was forced to respond, and his opposition to humane immigration reform came to the forefront of the election. With today’s ruling on Arizona’s immigration law, the Supreme Court has put Romney in another perilous spot that may damage his attempt to win back Latino voters–or at least stem the bleeding.
When Rick Santorum said during the campaign that inequality is a good thing, a lot of people were surprised. Santorum was attacking a straw man—he was arguing that everyone shouldn't have precisely the same income, while no one actually believes that they should—but it was revealing. One of the questions that we've neglected to ask in our health care debate is just how much inequality we are willing to tolerate—or in the case of conservatives, want desperately to maintain—in this particular arena.