On the eve of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of President Obama’s federal health care overhaul, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney tried to erase any doubt about what he plans to do with any parts of the law that might survive.
Campaigning in the politically powerful Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C., the former Massachusetts governor assured supporters he plans on ripping “Obamacare” out by the roots, no matter what the court says Thursday.
“Whatever the Supreme Court does tomorrow, one thing we know, If I am elected president, we are going to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with real reform,” Mr. Romney told the crowd gathered at a machine shop in Sterling, Va.
The comments put him on the same page as House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who earlier in the day said the lower chamber would push to replace the health care law if the Supreme Court fails to strike it down.
The contours of the presidential race will likely change when the justices weigh in on the constitutionality of the law — in particular the individual mandate requiring citizens to obtain health care coverage.
“It will either feed the narrative that government is being used as a change agent versus the narrative of excessive government intervention in health care,” said Brian J. Moran, chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. “The president feels the government can be used as an instrument of good and provide people with necessary health care, and his opponents believe that this administration has gone too far.”
While it was anybody’s guess Wednesday as to how the court would rule, it was clear that both presidential camps were poised to spin the decision in their favor.
“Clearly, if it is upheld the Romney folks are going to say, ‘We are going to repeal it,’ to try to keep it in the headlines,” former Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III said. If it is overturned, Mr. Davis predicted the Obama campaign will say at least they tried to do something, while casting Republicans as obstructionists bent on blocking reform.
The law has been a frequent target of criticism since Mr. Obama signed it into law after Democrats muscled it through Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote.
Conservatives and advocates of limited government, citing the law as a big-government power grab, showed surprising strength in the 2010 mid-term elections, helping the GOP capture the House.
But the Republican vilification of Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul has also caused Mr. Romney headaches, as rivals and even the president himself have said the Affordable Care Act was based on the Massachusetts health care reforms enacted under Mr. Romney when he was governor.
A CBS News/New York Times poll released earlier this month found that almost seven in 10 Americans want the Supreme Court to overturn all of President Obama’s health care law or to at least strike down the individual mandate.
During his campaign stop, Mr. Romney did not offer specifics on how he would replace the Obama reforms.
“My guess is they are not sleeping well at the White House tonight,” Mr. Romney said.
• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at email@example.com.
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