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Obama campaign girds for Supreme Court healthcare ruling

June 21, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tours Covenant Community Care in Detroit before speaking about the Affordable Care Act.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tours Covenant… (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- With the Supreme Court ruling on healthcare reform set to land, the Obama campaign is prepared to defend the president's signature legislative accomplishment, regardless of the court's decision.

The game plan likely mirrors the reelection team's strategy when the high court heard oral arguments on constitutional questions related to the Affordable Care Act in March -- highlighting some of the law's most popular elements to the constituency groups most affected by them.

One example: When a conveniently timed report from the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday showed 3.1 million young adults now have health insurance because of the law, the statistic quickly surfaced in a campaign YouTube video telling the story of a 21-year-old Nebraska college student who benefited from the provision. State-specific breakdowns were also circulated in some of the key battlegrounds by the campaign and state parties.

In March, the campaign also held phone banks with nurses, released direct mail focused on the benefits for women, and targeted Latino voters -- a group it said stood to gain the most from new coverage extended by the law once fully implemented. The campaign website now has a page dedicated to "How Obamacare benefits you."

Campaign officials say, predictably, that the full nature of their response to the court ruling depends on what it is.

"But the thing we do know is that there are millions of people who are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act already, and we feel strongly that the initiatives launched, and the law itself, are important," said one official at a briefing with reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

Campaign officials also look to ramp up pressure on Mitt Romney -- both on the issue of a mandate, which he supported in Massachusetts, and about what kind of plan he would pursue if elected.

"He seems to be doing everything he can do to avoid answering a direct question" on the issue, the campaign official said.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that 47% of respondents said they oppose the healthcare law, little changed from previous findings. Only 21% of independent respondents said they support it, a new low.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, 77% of respondents said they think lawmakers should start working on a new reform law, while 19% said they should leave the system as is.

An earlier Pew Research Center survey found that even as 48% said they opposed the law, only 18% said they understood it very well, while just about half said they understood it somewhat. If the court strikes the law down, the Obama campaign could therefore have an opportunity to rally supporters and independents around the most popular elements that would potentially be cast aside.

Most court watchers expect the first of likely several rulings on the law to come on Monday. Obama is scheduled to be holding a campaign event in New Hampshire that day, before raising money in Boston -- offering a potentially rich backdrop for the president to defend the law, given that the administration has called Romney's Massachusetts reform law a model for its own.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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