July 6, 2012 •
Eye on the Races – July 6, 2012
Announcing their decision on the last day of the judicial term, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The decision of the Court is already playing a role in the Presidential and congressional elections as both sides look to paint the ruling in their favor.
The ruling was a win for the Obama Administration as the ACA was a major achievement of the President’s first term. The president’s campaign has used the decision to build support and highlight individuals who have been affected by the legislation. However, while the ACA was by and large upheld, the Court ruled that the individual mandate portion of the law is constitutional only as a tax, not as a penalty. A decision that has given fodder to the right to paint the legislation as a tax increase.
To complicate matters for Republicans, aides to former Gov. Mitt Romney came out in a couple of interviews over the last week stating they agreed with the administration that the mandate was in fact a penalty and not a tax putting the campaign at odds with many in the party. Eric Fehrnstrom, advisor to Gov. Romney, said during an interview with the Washington Post, “The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court, he agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice Scalia, that very clearly said that the mandate was not a tax.”
These comments forced Gov. Romney to clarify his position in an interview with CBS News on July 4th, stating, “Well, the Supreme Court has the final word. And their final word is that Obamacare is a tax. So it’s a tax.”
While both campaigns are still working to find the appropriate way to approach the ruling, polling suggests the issue may not be as important or at least not as currently relevant as previously thought. The Pew Research Center released a poll this week showing 45% of respondents either didn’t know what the court had ruled or thought most of the law had been struck down. Furthermore, 63% of people 18-29 years old either thought the law had been struck down or didn’t know.
While it’s almost certain that healthcare will become an issue in the campaign (the house has scheduled a full repeal vote for July 19) both President Obama and Gov. Romney have worked to pivot the focus of the dialogue to jobs and the economy. June employment numbers were released today showing the economy added 80k jobs leaving the unemployment rate at 8.2% for the second straight month.
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