The Supreme Court concluded three days of public hearings on President Obama's health-care overhaul on Wednesday, and legal analysts say it looks like the court's conservative majority might strike down the law's requirement that all Americans buy insurance. That provision is considered the cornerstone of ObamaCare — without it, the signature domestic policy achievement of Obama's first term could collapse. What would such a setback do to Obama's chances of winning a second term? Here, four theories:
1. Counterintuitively, a loss in court would be a political win for Obama
If the Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare, it "will be the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party," Democratic strategist James Carville tells CNN. Health-care costs would continue to "escalate unbelievably," and "the Democrats are going to say — and it is completely justified: 'We tried, we did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority.'" Thanks to a partisan decision by conservative justices, Republicans will "own the health-care system," warts and all, and that will be a huge disadvantage for them in November.
2. Actually, this would cripple Obama's hope of re-election
"Spinning a loss as a win," says Glenn Thrush at Politico, "is a little like praising the tsunami because you had forgotten to water your houseplants." Any "tactical advantage a SCOTUS loss would confer on Obama and the Democrats would be more than offset by the jolt of enthusiasm it gives to the Republican base." Not only that, but Obama and Co. would wind up with nothing to show for the 18-month-long battle over health-care reform, fueling critics who already deride the whole drama as a "colossal time-suck" that wasted political capital that "could have been better spent on the economy and jobs."
3. It won't make a difference one way or the other
"The decision in this case will likely have little or no effect on Obama v. Romney," says Jonathan Bernstein at The New Republic. The court will decide ObamaCare's fate in June, and the issue will have faded from people's minds by November. Besides, partisans — and that's most of us — have made up their minds already. "For swing voters, health-care reform must compete with everything else: The economy, the death of bin Laden," and "whatever smaller issues affect them personally."
4. It all depends on how Obama reacts
If the Supreme Court rules against Obama, he'll "face a critical decision," says Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal. He "could announce he respects the court's decision and pledge to fashion a bipartisan solution to provide access to affordable health-care insurance for all Americans. This would help his re-election by repositioning him back in the political center." Or he could "lash out against the court's majority" and "insist on an even larger role in health care for Washington," which will put him at odds with what the public wants and damage his re-election chances.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Surviving a plane crash
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Ted Cruz and the most cynical, despicable political stunt of the year
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- When men who abstain from pre-marital sex get married
- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: The man who would be caliph
- Everything you need to master Chinese cooking
- The greatest sniper duel in history is a myth
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
Subscribe to the Week