When President Obama spoke in the aftermath of his victory at the Supreme Court, he never mentioned the word “tax.” The ruling that saved his signature health care legislation made it clear his pledge the bill was not a tax was a clear deception. But while not acknowledging that the Affordable Care Act was passed by means of a political subterfuge, he did expressly ask Americans not to “refight the political battles of two years ago.” That was not so much a plea that the debate about the bill not be revisited but a worry that what will ensue will be a rematch of the 2010 midterm elections which were fought largely on the question of ObamaCare. While the president has every reason to exult today, the biggest question about his re-election effort now becomes whether he can indeed avoid a replay of a contest that ended in a rout of the Democrats.
Though the president is the clear winner today, the Court did hand Republicans an issue on which they can put Democrats at a disadvantage. The ruling established that ObamaCare constitutes a massive across-the-board tax increase that will come down hardest on the middle class, a group of voters who the president insists are exempt from his efforts to hike levies on the rich. But GOP optimists need to understand that presidential elections are very different animals from midterms. Although the Court may have helped revive the Tea Party, circumstances have changed since their heyday in 2010. Nevertheless, the stage has been set for the rematch that the president dreads.
With one day to go before Wisconsin voters vote to decide whether or not to recall Governor Scott Walker, polls are still showing the Republican clearly favored to retain his office. After more than a year of effort by a vengeful union movement and their Democratic allies, the decision to try to punish Walker for passing legislation that cut back on the power of unions to hold the state hostage in negotiations may turn out to be the biggest miscalculation of 2012. With President Obama looking on fearfully (and carefully avoiding any personal involvement in the contest), the only thing bitter Wisconsin liberals may have accomplished is putting their state in play for Mitt Romney this November.
With Walker looking like a winner tomorrow, the coverage of the race has shifted to a discussion of how the recall will affect the presidential contest, with even the New York Times now conceding the recall may have helped to turn Wisconsin from a solid Obama state in 2008 to a crucial swing state that could cost him re-election. If the GOP emerges victorious tomorrow, liberals will not only have transformed Walker from an embattled incumbent to a national powerhouse, but they may also have set the stage for a Democratic debacle that could cost their party the White House. If that happens, the party will have only their union allies to blame for a decision that was rooted in anger rather than smart politics.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has wisely decided not to challenge the validity of the petitions that were presented to the state demanding his recall. Rather than getting involved in a nasty Bush-Gore lawsuit he might lose even before fighting for his office, he’s better off simply going straight to the voters sometime this summer.
The hundreds of thousands of signatures were largely the work of his union opponents who hope to undo the results of the 2010 elections when the people of Wisconsin chose a conservative Republican for the governor’s chair as well as a GOP-run legislature. The vote will be something of a referendum on the 2010 election in which Wisconsin can, in effect, get a mulligan for its choice at that time. The recall will enable us to see whether the state was ready for a politician who meant what he said when he campaigned on a platform of pushing back against civil service unions that are driving states into bankruptcy. While the most recent poll rates this a tossup, the Walker vote represents both an opportunity and a danger to both parties as they seek a leg up heading into this fall’s presidential election.