The Court as Campaign Changer

Monday, June 25, 2012

President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on June 7. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

The presidential race is getting nastier and nastier and it’s all on video. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have released new ads in the last few days. A new super PAC supporting President Obama launched an attack on Romney’s record at Bain, while Romney has released four versions of an ad called "First 100 Days." It describes what Romney would do in his first 100 days as president. Each version is tailored to the battleground state where it will run: North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Iowa.

In the midst of mounting aggression, one of the bastions of democracy, the Supreme Court, is preparing to release a decision on the constitutionality of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. No matter what their decision turns out to be, the nine justices risk being swept into the highly charged debate over the controversial legislation. 

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "The Obama Victory: How Money, Media and Message Shaped the 2008 Campaign." 

"When the Supreme Court makes its decision, it will take a dialogue that has been in place since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and potentially change it dramatically — indeed, upend it — if in the process it makes any adjustment at all in what we assume is going to be the status quo." 

If any part of the Act is struck, Jamieson predicts that its challengers will mount attacks on President Obama's credibility. "You'll see these independent expenditure groups advertising and saying, 'Ha! The president, who was a professor of constitutional law, in his first major achievement does something that is unconstitutional.'" The "highest level of attack", Jamieson says, will be directed at the Act and then at the President. 

If that happens, however, the burden of replacement will shift to the Republicans. "The Democrats will come back and say, 'Well, you promised to repeal and replace — where's your replacement?'" Jamieson says. 

Whatever decision that the Supreme Court makes, the healthcare bill will continue to be a hot-button issue in the upcoming election. However, that is not the only fallout that is likely to occur. Because of the highly politicized nature of this particular case, the Supreme Court could take a blow in credibility with the American public. 

"The fact that this is happening in the middle of an election campaign means that the dynamic is going to include, potentially, attacks on the Supreme Court, no matter how this ruling comes down," Jamieson says. "The Supreme Court, historically, has been one of if not the most trusted institutions in society. [But] recently, that trust in the Supreme Court has eroded." 


Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Paul R. Smith

Comments [1]

Scott from Miami Florida

Ever since Obama was elected, the republicans have said to the American people "Our job as republicans is to fire Obama, not to hire you!"

Jun. 25 2012 09:10 AM

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