The United States Supreme Count began hearing arguments on Monday over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The oral arguments will last for three days. The court’bs decision, which will come later this year, could significantly impact the outcome of the 2012 presidential race, not to mention the future of the country.
While conservatives wait with bated breath for the court’s decision, nobody knows for sure how the highest court in the land will come down on the matter. President Obama’s main legislative accomplishment has been a top issue in the Republican primary. All of the candidates have said that they would repeal it, but Rick Santorum has made the case the Mitt Romney is incapable of doing so since Romeny is responsible for enacting the predecessor to Obamacare as Governor of Massachusetts.
The U.S. Supreme Court will probably render its decision some time in late June at the end of the Court’s annual session. That means Republicans will more than likely have selected their presidential nominee unless no candidate is able to amass the 1,144 delegates needed to claim the Republican nomination.
Regardless of who the Republican nominee is, the Supreme Court’s decision is likely to have a significant effect on the general election campaign. In a press conference last week, Iowa Congressman Steve King said, “If the Supreme Court should find this unconstitutional, which I believe is the appropriate decision, … there is more risk that President Obama will be reelected because people will think they are protected from this egregious reach into our freedom. If the Supreme Court finds it constitutional, then I believe Barack Obama will not be reelected because they will understand that they need to vote him out of office to repeal it.”
King’s words should serve as a warning to Republicans. We have already seen what a small improvement in the economy has done for President Obama’s approval rating. Conservatives would rightfully celebrate should the Supreme Court strike down Obamacare, but in doing so, Republicans could see another major issue suddenly evaporate. Sure, having the Supreme Court deem President Obama’s main achievement unconstitutional would be embarrassing, but it takes the major issue against the President off of the table.
The other scenario that King mentions is not all that comforting for conservatives either. If the Court upholds the individual mandate, and the Obamacare in general, Republicans will be outraged, while President Obama and Democrats will be vindicated. That sequence of events very well could motivate Republican voters for the general election, but it depends on whether the Court’s ruling is a five to four, six to three, or an even more lopsided decision.
If the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare and the individual mandate on a five to four decision, the Republican battle cry of 2012 will be to support the nominee so that conservatives can get a fifth member on the Supreme Court. If the decision is six to three or more lopsided in favor of upholding Obamacare, conservatives may throw their hands up in the air and ask why should they even bother? If any of the four conservative justices, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, or Clarence Thomas, back President Obama’s healthcare law, whoever the Republican nominee ends up being will likely bear the brunt of conservatives’ anger.
If the nominee ends up being Mitt Romney, which is the most likely outcome, such a decision could further damage the candidate who has not done well with conservatives and evangelicals even when the media has made the case that the primary is essentially over. It is the same lot of voters that Romney has struggled to win over in the primary that could be discouraged should one of the four conservative justices side with the President’s healthcare law.
Never has a Supreme Court decision of this magnitude occurred in the midst of a presidential campaign. The ramifications of what the Supreme Court decides are huge. The outcome not only will dictate the main issue of the campaign, but it could also affect the enthusiasm level for both political parties. If Republicans don’t have Obamacare and the economy to campaign on in the fall, all they may have left is high gas prices to campaign against.
Needless to say, Republicans have an awful lot riding on this one Supreme Court case.
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