WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s imminent ruling on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul marks a key pivot point in the presidential race. But neither side knows which direction the high court’s decision will turn the contest.
Anticipation of Thursday’s decision could be equally unnerving for Romney, whose opposition to the law has become a central pillar of his campaign.
Neither candidate has any direct influence over the ruling. The court could uphold the health care law, strike it down or deem the requirement that most Americans carry health insurance unconstitutional while retaining other aspects of the law.
The announcement is expected to be followed almost immediately by a barrage of advertisements and fundraising appeals from Democrats and Republicans, all trying to cast the decision in the most advantageous light for their candidates.
The Obama campaign began trying to raise money off the ruling even before it was announced. In a Thursday morning fundraising email with the subject line “Today’s Decision,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told supporters “no matter what, today is an important day to have Barack Obama’s back.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also issued a fundraising appeal for a “health care rapid response fund,” telling supporters by email Wednesday that, however the court rules, “Democrats are in for a tough fight.”
Secrecy has marked each campaign’s planning for the critical moment.
Obama is scheduled to be in the Oval Office with Vice President Joe Biden when the ruling is announced. The president is certain to respond to the decision, but his specific plans to do so were unclear. Romney’s campaign has refused to disclose the location of a Capitol Hill venue where he will face reporters shortly after the announcement.
It is clear, however, that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obama’s sweeping federal health care law will shape the contours of the presidential campaign through the summer and fall. Both Obama and his Republican rival are primed to use the outcome — whatever it is — for political gain.
Obama has expressed confidence the court will uphold his signature legislative initiative. But he won’t be shocked if a conservative majority overturns the most controversial provision, those familiar with his thinking say. Romney aides say the Republican candidate will get a political boost if the court strikes down the measure. But they don’t want celebrations that could alienate voters who could lose health care benefits as a result of the decision.
The court’s ruling could have a far-reaching impact on the nation’s health care system. If the law is upheld, about 30 million of the 50 million uninsured Americans would get coverage in 2014 when a big expansion begins.
Overturning all or part of the law could leave as uninsured the more than 3 million young adults who gained coverage through a provision allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26, according to the Health and Human Services Department. Another 60,000 people who gained coverage through a plan for those with pre-existing conditions may not be able to get coverage elsewhere if the entire law is struck down.
Obama recently has avoided mentioning the impending court ruling directly, but during campaign events this week he has vigorously defended the health care overhaul as critical to the public’s health and well-being.
“I think it was the right thing to do. I know it was the right thing to do,” he told supporters in Boston.