Confronted with a clear victory for President Obama, Mitt Romney responded with a rallying cry. "What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected President of the United States," he declared. "And that is, I will act to repeal Obamacare." Romney's advisers insist that the decision will aid their man's cause. Shared outrage over John Roberts' creative jurisprudence offers Romney a chance to bond with conservatives who never fully trusted him, they say, which will boost Republican turnout this fall. "Our base will go nuts," says a Romney adviser. "This is going to be good for us."
But that spin amounts to sugarcoating. Romney had openly rooted for the law's failure, even predicting that the court would strike it down, making the ruling seem like a kind of rebuke to him instead of the President. More important, by applying a stamp of legitimacy to the law, the Supreme Court has deprived the presumptive GOP nominee of the argument that Obama squandered time on an illegal power grab when he should have been performing CPR on the economy.
Nor is it clear that voters will accept Romney's invitation to revisit what is now essentially settled law. It's true that swing voters have no love for Obamacare: a June Ipsos poll showed that a whopping 73% of independent voters opposed the law. But many of those same voters are tired of division and bickering, and pressing the fight could be risky.
More likely, Romney's best response will be to seize on the majority's argument that the mandate amounts to a tax and argue that Obama has imposed a new tax burden on voters (though few Americans are likely to pay a tax penalty). Because Obama had long denied that the mandate was a tax, Romney could claim the President broke his promise not to raise taxes on middle-class Americans and hope voters see it that way too.