For weeks, both men methodically calibrated their response to what was the most eagerly anticipated pre-election high court decision ever. The ruling settles the law, not the politics.
The outcome poses challenges for both presidential contenders. Obama’s claim that it means the country “can’t refight” the law is a pipedream. Romney will be held accountable for his strong inconsistencies on health care and refusal to offer serious alternatives.
The five-to-four decision upholding the central tenet of Obamacare, as Republicans call it, was a better result for the Democrats. If things had gone the other way, Romney could have credibly charged that Obama wasted two years on an unconstitutional measure, instead of focusing on the economy.
Yet Chief Justice John Roberts, while handing the White House an overall victory, created new problems for Obama’s re-election, declaring the law’s requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance or face a penalty was akin to a tax. That undercuts the president’s vow not to raise taxes on working-class Americans.