David Frum: The Supreme Court’s decision hurts Mitt Romney

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Every sagacious political analyst in America seems to believe the Supreme Court’s ruling on ObamaCare will help Mitt Romney (from a political perspective, the worst scenario for him would have been a full repeal).

So it shouldn’t surprise us that David Frum wrote this:

[T]oday’s Supreme Court decision will make it a lot harder to elect Mitt Romney. President Obama has just been handed a fearsome election weapon. 2012 is no longer exclusively a referendum on the president’s economic management. 2012 is now also a referendum on Mitt Romney’s healthcare plans.

Right.

Except that the decision is guaranteed to motivate the conservative base. And don’t forget that the American public doesn’t really like ObamaCare very much.

Why is Frum convinced this will be “a referendum on Mitt Romney’s healthcare plans” — but not a referendum on Obama’s?

Rather than eclipsing the economy, this issue gives Romney a second line of attack — one that speaks to the economy, yes, but also with a cultural emphasis. As I’ve noted in the past:

[H]istory does not seem indicate that a struggling economy — regardless of who is to blame — or who currently occupies the White House — will ultimately benefit the Republican candidate in a general election. (This, of course, is controversial. Jimmy Carter’s handling of the economy was surely one cause of his 1980 defeat, but would he have been defeated had it not been for the Iranian hostages?)

The trouble for Republican presidential hopefuls trying to make hay of a struggling economy is that, when times are hard, liberals can always out-promise and out-class-warfare their adversaries. Thus, national elections that focus instead on foreign policy or cultural issues have tended to skew more favorably to the GOP.

I was always skeptical on the notion that Romney could win on the economy alone. Now he won’t have to. Like the economy, talking about ObamaCare is a clear win for Romney. Not only is he on the right side of public opinion, but — unlike some other issues  — the disparate wings of the conservative movement are generally united around this effort.

It might have been a bad judicial decision, but it’s a political win for Mitt Romney.