Karl Rove On How The Public Will Perceive HHS v. Florida

June 14th, 2012

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that half the voters “think the whole thing is political” so if the law is overturned, Republicans “will own” the health-care issue as costs “escalate unbelievably.” Democrats can profit at the polls by saying, “We tried, we did something.”

But Democrats should be careful what they wish for. ObamaCare is not popular; striking down the law in part or completely is. For example, in the June 5 Fox News poll, only 40% favor the new health-care law while 49% oppose it. Just 30% would prefer the Supreme Court to uphold it, while 21% favor the court striking down the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance at age 26, and 38% want the entire statute declared unconstitutional.

A New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this month was even worse for the law, finding that 34% of Americans support ObamaCare (18% strongly) while 48% disapprove (36% strongly). Only 24% want to keep the entire law while 27% want the individual mandate gone and 41% want the entire law struck down.

I have no way this cuts.

So will the case be HHS v. Florida, or Florida v. HHS? Both petitions were granted. I gather if the mandate is struck down, it will be HHS v. Florida, and if it is upheld, it will be Florida v. HHS. But who knows?

Update: Relatedly from Peter Suderman:

But with the insurance mandate off the table, that policy consensus will no longer exist. ObamaCare’s consistently negative poll numbers—roughly half the public has opposed the law since its passage, and two-thirds oppose the mandate—will further complicate matters. Many moderate Democrats were worried about both the political and fiscal costs of health care reform to begin with. The combination of a Supreme Court defeat and widespread opposition will reinforce their resistance not only to ObamaCare’s specific reforms but to any large-scale health care overhaul. Liberal reformers determined to foist major structural changes onto the health care system will no longer have a viable short-term battle plan.

While those forces regroup, the free market policy community can build a case and consensus around less expensive, less intrusive, and more effective reforms. Granted, this won’t be easy; one of the reasons ObamaCare passed was that opponents spent too little time and effort on crafting workable alternatives. In the last two years, Republicans chanting “repeal and replace” have focused far more energy on the former part of the slogan.

But even if those efforts are only minimally successful, policy will still be moving in a favorable direction—away from expensive, expansive, top-down projects and toward consumer-driven reforms. Congress has taken up a major health care reform, on average, about once every 18 years. Each time, the reforms have been marginally more market friendly. Far from clinching the case for a government-run single-payer system, as some progressives hope, overturning ObamaCare would clear the legislative and political slate, making way for choice-based reforms that tackle rising health care costs without adding yet another expensive entitlement.

The health policy war, in other words, would be far from over, but scrapping ObamaCare would be a significant victory.