When Scott Brown ran to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy, he had one overarching theme: he would cast what was then thought to be the deciding vote against ObamaCare. For all the liberal spin about his opponent running a clumsy campaign, the Senate election was the clearest referendum on ObamaCare yet. And in a liberal state, the Republican won the seat by winning the argument (or deploying the winning argument) against ObamaCare.
When the Senate Democrats used a procedural maneuver to get around the vote, Brown’s victory seemed to have been in vain. But now its value comes roaring back to Republicans–as a potential model for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the individual mandate may stand as a massive tax increase, Romney will deploy what was always going to be the strategy in this case: the claim that he is the last thing standing between ObamaCare and the people.
If Romney loses the election in November, it is doubtful the GOP would still gain enough seats in the Senate to overturn the health care reform law. And in either case, it is unlikely the GOP could take enough seats in the Senate to overturn an Obama veto. Only an election that produces a President Romney would carry with it the means to overturn the law. ObamaCare was unpopular enough for a Republican to win Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, and it remains deeply unpopular. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled the law’s funding mechanism to be a massive nationwide tax increase, it’s possible the law may become even less popular.
That makes Romney’s argument, in theory, stronger than Brown’s was, at least in two ways: the country is far more conservative than Massachusetts, and the law’s tax increase is so politically radioactive that it never would have passed in the first place had it been described honestly as such from the beginning. Romney may not be able to authentically recreate the style of Brown’s campaign by driving around in a pickup truck, but he may otherwise have found his blueprint.