This article appeared in the Saturday, June 30, 2012 edition of National Journal.It is a source of constant amusement to me that so many people obsess—as if fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube—over the various combinations of states that could get either President Obama or Mitt Romney to the magic number of 270 votes in the Electoral College. The guilty include pros at both ends of the political spectrum; people who ought to know better; and armchair analysts who seem to think that they can crack the magic code.
OBAMA CAMPAIGN sells $30 T-shirts: "HEALTH REFORM STILL A BFD"
ADELSON PLEDGES $10 MILLION TO KOCH BROTHER NETWORK: "Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson this week pledged $10 million to the Koch brothers' 2012 efforts, cementing a potent alliance of two of the biggest spending forces in conservative politics," Ken Vogel scoops this morning. ..Together the groups in the Koch network intend to spend nearly $400 million ahead of the 2012 election." http://politi.co/OE6PDi
BEHIND THE CURTAIN - "Romney Campaign Unleashes Coordinated Response to Court Ruling," by Michael D. Shear on NYTimes.com "Caucus Blog ": "Moments after the Supreme Court ruled on President Obama's health care law, Lanhee Chen, the policy director for Mitt Romney, sent an e-mail to about three dozen senior Republicans on Capitol Hill and in state attorneys general's offices. 'Please stand by. Reviewing. Will circulate answer,' the e-mail, sent at 10:17 a.m. said in part. Minutes later, at 10:27 a.m., Mr. Chen sent another e-mail: 'Go with upheld.' ... For more than two months, a group of top aides to Mr. Romney met weekly with staff members to Republican lawmakers, legislative campaign committees and representatives of the state attorneys general. The meetings, led by Jeff Larson, the chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, were usually held ... on the fourth floor of the committee's headquarters.
"Scenario One assumed the court had upheld the health care law . Scenario Two assumed the court had overturned it. Scenario Three contemplated a variety of partial rulings. In each case, the group developed separate statements, Twitter hashtags, videos and Web sites. ... 'Once Lanhee gave the green light, we were hitting our state parties, our surrogates," [RNC Communications Director Sean] Spicer said. ... The surrogate list, developed over weeks, included dozens of state and national Republican officials, booked onto television and radio programs from morning to night. The switch was thrown on a Web site: peoplevobamacare.com. Republican officials everywhere started posting on Twitter with the agreed-upon hashtag: #fullrepeal." http://nyti.ms/LkIM7R
RYAN LIZZA, "Why Romney Won't Repeal Obamacare ": "If Romney were to win in November, the first matter he'd have to deal with would be the fallout from the so-called fiscal cliff of December 31st ... Because the fiscal-cliff negotiations will be an enormous fight over the size and scope of the federal government, every government policy will theoretically be open to debate-including, Romney might insist, repeal of the A.C.A. But it's a fantasy. The negotiations would be dead before they started if Republicans demanded repeal as a price for a Grand Bargain on taxes, spending, and entitlements. The fiscal-cliff negotiations will undoubtedly include a great deal of horse-trading that will infuriate and cheer partisans on both sides. But there is literally nothing Republicans could offer Democrats in return for repealing the Party's greatest achievement since the Johnson Administration." http://nyr.kr/LwOQsa
THE COVERAGE - "Rush to report US health ruling trips up CNN, Fox," by AP Television Writer David Bauder: "Bloomberg News and The Associated Press were the first reporting the news - correctly, at 10:07 a.m. ... The New York Times made a point of tweeting that reporters and editors were analyzing the decision and would write when they were comfortable that the nuances were correct. The paper didn't tweet the news until 10:20 a.m. CNN apologized for its error, saying it 'regrets that it didn't wait to report out the full and complete opinion' ... Fox, however, insisted it was right. 'Fox reported the facts, as they came in,' said network executive Michael Clemente.
"The inaccurate reports were the first ones seen by Obama, who was watching four television monitors outside the Oval Office. White House Counsel Katherine Ruemmler came in moments later with the true story. ... 'The court striking down that mandate is a dramatic blow to the president,' said CNN reporter John King. ... Within moments, Ruemmler hurried toward the White House and flashed the president two thumbs up. She explained her reading, and Obama hugged her as Chief of Staff Jack Lew looked on. ...
"The Huffington Post's politics Twitter feed first made the wrong call ... Caution was discussed ahead of time during several planning meetings at The New York Times, said Jim Roberts, assistant managing editor. ... ABC's Terry Moran had less than a minute ... before he was talking on the air to anchor[s Diane Sawyer and ]George Stephanopoulos ... Moran quickly spotted that Roberts had decided the case ... with the court's liberal justices, a sign that it was highly unlikely the health care law had been overturned."
WHAT IT MEANS FOR NOVEMBER WON'T BE CLEAR FOR WEEKS: "Over the next six weeks or so, health care will be an unpredictable race within a race," Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman write. "For Mitt Romney, who had every reason to expect the conservative high court to strike down at least a big part of the law, the decision requires a bit of recalibration. He had hoped to portray a full or partial repeal as evidence Obama squandered the trust of the American electorate by wasting two years...[That] will take a back seat to a more generic GOP assault on the law highlighting the court's insistence that the individual mandate be legally defined as a tax - an approach more likely to appeal to the conservative base than independent voters...Views about the Affordable Care Act are baked into the political cake already, and most independents undecided about their choice this November are bored, confused, exhausted or all of the above about a law that keeps cropping up like athlete's foot." More: http://politi.co/NVCw9Y. My story with Robin Bravender on the tax messaging: http://politi.co/M9pEhl.
ROMNEY'S MESSAGING HURDLE: "He has argued the difference between his law in Massachusetts and 'Obamacare' is that his was 'constitutional,' a distinction that would seem to disappear now that the justices say the president's was, too. 'I think it does bring Romneycare back into play a little bit," [former Romney consultant] Alex Castellanos acknowledged." He's also going to be under pressure to offer specifics.
CHICAGO STRATEGY AIMS TO HIT ROMNEY ON HIS MANDATE: "Obama wants to move swiftly beyond the court decision, to cherry-pick the most attractive parts of his reform effort - prohibitions on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, free checkups for women, extension of parental coverage to kids up to the age of 26 - and present them to the public as a menu of enticing new benefits and consumer protections," Reid Epstein and Glenn Thrush write. "The second part of the strategy: Daring Mitt Romney to attack him on the least popular part of the law - the individual mandate - which Romney championed in Massachusetts." http://bit.ly/MWVT1d.
OBAMA'S TIMING PROBLEM: "The victory was dropped into the pre-July 4th valley of summertime news coverage rather than as a welcome fall bombshell dropped when voters will be most tuned into the race."
REALITY CHECK - MOST DON'T NAME HEALTH CARE AS TOP PROBLEM: A Gallup release out this morning says "few Americans so far in 2012 mention healthcare when asked to identify the most important problem facing the country." Just 6% said healthcare is the top problem in June, behind mentions of the economy, jobs, the deficit, and problems in government. BUT "Gallup in May gave Americans a list of 10 economic issues and asked them to rate the importance of each. Americans put healthcare at the top of the list. Forty percent rated 'the cost of healthcare' as extremely important, with another 44% saying it was very important, putting it just ahead of unemployment and the federal budget deficit." http://bit.ly/LUjSLG
PEGGY NOONAN in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal: "It is a big victory for the White House. ObamaCare, including the insurance mandate, was upheld. What would have been a political disaster for President Obama has been averted. He has not been humiliated, and the centerpiece of his efforts the past 3½ years has not been rebuked by the Supreme Court." http://on.wsj.com/LVfyNI
CONSERVATIVE INTELLIGENTSIA SAYS ROBERTS IS CRAZY LIKE A FOX-
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: "It's the judiciary's Nixon-to-China: Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberal wing of the Supreme Court and upholds the constitutionality of Obamacare. How? By pulling off one of the great constitutional finesses of all time. He managed to uphold the central conservative argument against Obamacare, while at the same time finding a narrow definitional dodge to uphold the law - and thus prevented the court from being seen as having overturned, presumably on political grounds, the signature legislation of this administration." http://bit.ly/LkVjrP
GEORGE WILL: 'Conservatives won a substantial victory Thursday...The physics of American politics - actions provoking reactions - continues to move the crucial debate, about the nature of the American regime, toward conservatism. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has served this cause...The health-care legislation's expansion of the federal government's purview has improved our civic health by rekindling interest in what this expansion threatens - the Framers' design for limited government. Conservatives distraught about the survival of the individual mandate are missing the considerable consolation prize they won when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional rationale for the mandate - Congress's rationale - that was pregnant with rampant statism." http://wapo.st/QxKmGq
ERICK ERICKSON of RedState: "The all or nothing repeal has always been better ground for the GOP and now John Roberts has forced everyone onto that ground. It seems very, very clear to me in reviewing John Roberts' decision that he is playing a much longer game than us and can afford to with a life tenure. And he probably just handed Mitt Romney the White House." http://bit.ly/QxKfuy
LATE TO THIS - GOP LAWSUIT CHALLENGES CONTRIBUTION CAPS: "The Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit last week challenging campaign contribution limits set by the federal government, continuing the party's efforts to dismantle the laws restricting money in political campaigns," The Washington Post's T.W. Farnam reports. "The suit challenges the cap on the total amount of money that one person may give to political candidates, parties and some types of political action committees during a two-year election cycle. The RNC lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, is the latest in a series of cases brought by conservatives challenging laws that restrict how elections are funded. So far, they have found a largely receptive audience at the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., most notably with the 2010" Citizens United decision. http://wapo.st/LkIxK0
10 MEMORABLE QUOTES FROM THURSDAY -
SCOTT PELLEY at the top of the CBS Evening News: "The conservative Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, today, single handedly saved the most important domestic achievement of a liberal president." http://ti.me/NbbpTA
ROMNEY: "If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace Obama."
OBAMA: "I didn't do this because it's good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for the country."
PATRICK GASPARD (DNC executive director and former White House political director): "it's constitutional. Bitches." http://bit.ly/NVt2eH
RAHM EMANUEL: "I gave him my advice. I told him many times the political cost of doing this. And thank God for the country, he didn't listen to me." http://lat.ms/ODZbJc
ROB PORTMAN: "As a lawyer, I can see where Roberts is concerned about the institution and maybe that explains it? It's hard to look into the minds of these justices." http://bit.ly/N2xhV1
RAND PAUL: "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional." http://politi.co/MuJ2Vt
NANCY PELOSI in a phone call with Vicki Kennedy: "Now Teddy can rest." http://politi.co/MDQ5t1
JOE BIDEN tweets: "Today's decision is a really big - important - deal." http://bit.ly/OEIMnL
SARAH PALIN on Facebook: "Thank you, SCOTUS. This Obamacare ruling fires up the troops as America's eyes are opened! Thank God." http://on.fb.me/NJ9MNZ
LIGHTER CLICKS -
DEMOCRATS beat Republicans 18-5 at the annual congressional baseball game.
CNN'S erroneous report fooled Obama, who thought briefly that his law had been struck down: http://politi.co/LkL7jj.
JON STEWART made fun of Republican reactions to the decision, especially Romney's speech: http://gaw.kr/LVgaTC.
STEPHEN COLBERT, in character, pretended that his heart was broken by Roberts: http://gaw.kr/LUnXzp.
GOOGLE sends over the top five rising search terms from 7-11 a.m. yesterday: Justice Roberts, John Roberts, individual mandate, mandate and SCOTUS: http://bit.ly/OI8VTO.
CODA - QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As president, Mitt will nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts." - The Romney campaign web site http://bit.ly/N14joB