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Political Landscape to Stay Largely Unchanged After Decision

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Long after the glut of money from activists thrilled or horrified with Thursday’s Supreme Court decision stops pouring into political coffers and the cable TV talking heads have screamed themselves hoarse, the American political landscape will remain mostly the same.

Republican strategists eyeing House and Senate races were pleased with Thursday’s ruling from a political standpoint, saying it helps recrystallize a winning issue for them. Democratic operatives said the court’s decision gives them an opportunity to remind voters about the positive aspects of the law and deflates conservative attacks that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

But in many ways, the 5-4 ruling set a familiar political playing field for November.

“Because it was upheld, I don’t think it changes the dynamics and the political narrative of the campaigns, whether they are Democrats or Republicans,” Democratic pollster John Anzalone said, echoing the opinion of other Democrats. “Now everything is the same. I think the one thing it does, it helps Americans have the final say in it, and that’s good.”

GOP strategist Brad Todd explained that the ruling allowed Republican candidates to distill a message about Obamacare even more succinctly.

“It’s a very simple election,” he said. “If you want to remove the threat to our economy and our debt crisis, you have to elect Republican government to repeal this law.”

Todd added: “If any Republican candidates are out there talking about anything besides the economy and Obamacare, they need to be swatted upside the head.”

Rick Wiley, the Republican National Committee’s political director, pushed a similar narrative in a memo that said it is a bad law that Americans don’t want. “The only way for voters to end it and pursue true reform is to vote Republican in November,” he wrote.

But even Republican operatives conceded that there appear to be some short-term gains for Democrats with this decision. The heavy media coverage will help remind voters of all the provisions of the law they like.

“Insurance companies can’t again deny coverage to people with asthma, cancer or heart disease, or block women from getting cancer screenings,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said in a statement, hammering home the point.

But the short-term positives of this ruling for Democrats are likely to fade as the health-care-themed attack ads begin to cycle onto TV in heavy rotation. And the attacks will have a familiar ring.

Republicans “get to pound the message into seniors that the government is going to take away $500 billion from Medicare to pay for Barack Obama’s new health care scheme and you will no longer get to have access to your doctor,” Florida-based GOP consultant Rick Wilson said. “And it’s going to cause a world of hurt for this president” and his party.

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