But if unemployment continues to improve before Election Day, it could help Obama politically.
Complicating the issue is the question of which GOP nominee will be delivering the political message.
GOP House aides said preparations to coordinate with the eventual nominee have been stuck in limbo as the long primary is playing out. The message and approach would be different for Romney than it would for former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), these sources say.
For some Republicans, there are plenty of topics for the GOP to pick up on.
Asked what would be the pivotal issue of the presidential campaign, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) said, “Well, it’s a few. It’s not just one. It’s really about debt, deficit, taxes, spending, jobs, national security. It’s about energy policy — or lack thereof. It’s about the high cost of energy, it’s about the unemployment rates — people wanting to have jobs and can’t, people have given up. And regulatory and tax certainty.”
And when it comes to health care, Democrats say Romney’s ability to criticize the federal health care law is hampered by his involvement in the Massachusetts law.
“Mitt Romney makes it basically impossible for Republicans to effectively use health care as a message in the fall. His health care reform law was the basis for the national health care law,” said Bill Burton, a senior strategist at Priorities USA, a super PAC that supports Obama.
Romney, who has vowed to repeal the federal law, has disputed the extent to which his law was the basis for Obama’s.
“He does me the great favor of saying that I was the inspiration of his plan. If that’s the case, why didn’t you call me?” Romney said in April.
With the upcoming Supreme Court review and anniversary, Obama and fellow Democrats are planning their own messaging campaign.
“Democrats will have a strong coordinated message emphasizing the personal stories of everyday Americans who have benefited already from the law and would suffer if Republicans had their way and repeal went into effect,” a senior House Democratic aide said. This aide added that the administration, Congressional Democrats and outside groups are planning events, videos and online efforts.
The goal for Democrats is to focus on the individual benefits of the law.
“When you look at every individual element of the health care law, people are wildly in favor of it,” Burton said. “In fact, I would say, if anybody brings up health care in this election, it will probably be Democrats, because this is something we can be on offense on and not just in a defensive crouch as a result of some broad poll number.”
On a conference call with reporters Monday, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) referred to a constituent, “L,” who “spends over $600 a month on prescription drugs ... thanks to the [president’s health care] law, ‘L’ will save over $1,000 this year alone on prescription drug costs.”
For Democrats, a Supreme Court decision declaring all or parts of the bill unconstitutional would seem to be a worst-case scenario heading into the fall.
Burton said, “I think the Supreme Court can be an unpredictable place. We’ll take a look at the decision and respond appropriately. I think it’s hard to know exactly what will happen or what the appropriate response will be.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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