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President Obama’s great week points to how he plans to get re-elected

U.S. President Barack Obama smiles while walking towards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington June 28, 2012.

Larry Downing/Reuters

Obamacare has passed muster with the Supreme Court.

Can it now win at the ballot box?

The U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision on Thursday to uphold Barack Obama's health-care law capped a stellar week for the President as several elements of his re-election strategy seemed to come together all at once.

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Two major polls released this week – by Quinnipiac University and the Wall Street Journal – showed Mr. Obama opening up his lead over Republican Mitt Romney in the so-called "battleground states" that will decide the election outcome.

The result appears to have been largely driven by aggressive anti-Romney advertising in those states by Mr. Obama's campaign and a Super PAC supporting him. The ads take direct aim at Mr. Romney's business record running the private equity firm Bain Capital.

If it wasn't working, you can bet the Obama campaign would have dropped the ads. Instead, it launched a new series of advertising attacks on Mr. Romney this week, characterizing the ex-Massachusetts governor as the "outsourcer-in-chief."

On top of the good poll numbers, the Supreme Court this week handed Mr. Obama two important victories that added to his campaign momentum.

The top court struck down most of Arizona's controversial law aimed at illegal immigrants. It ruled in favour of the Obama administration, which argued the law interfered with the federal government's lead role in immigration matters.

The court upheld one provision of the law – the so-called "show me your papers" provision that requires state and local police to verify the immigration status of people they stop or arrest if they suspect they are in the country illegally.

But the court also placed strict conditions on the implementation of that provision and it cleared the way for further legal challenges on the basis that the Arizona law will lead to racial profiling. Latino voters are likely to reward Mr. Obama for waging this fight.

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Indeed, the ruling helped Mr. Obama solidify his support among Hispanic voters, building on his recent move to halt deportations of law-abiding young adults brought to the United States illegally as children.

That move is overwhelmingly popular. A Wall Street Journal poll this week showed that 68 per cent of all voters, including 87 per cent of Latino voters, support the policy.

Sorting through the political impact of Thursday's health-care ruling is more complicated, since the decision provided ammunition for both Mr. Obama and the GOP.

It is hard not to characterize the ruling as anything but a momentous personal victory for Mr. Obama that vindicates his claim to leadership on the health-care issue. It is likely to embolden him to speak more confidently about his reforms, something the Democratic base feels he has been far too sheepish about.

The more Mr. Obama brags about his health-care law, which has survived despite the overwhelming political odds against it, the more he mobilizes the Democratic base to fight harder to re-elect him.

Mr. Romney, too, will seize on the health-care law, arguing that electing him is now the only way to stop the implementation of legislation that the Republican base fears is a slippery slope toward the nationalization of the U.S. health-care industry.

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By prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions and preventing them from charging sick people higher premiums than healthy clients, Republicans argue the law will eventually put private insurers out of business, forcing the state to step in.

That will further leave health-care decisions, the GOP says, "in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington."

Opponents of the health-care law have already spent a quarter of a billion dollars on television ads attacking the legislation. Proponents, including the Obama administration, have spent only about a quarter of that amount.

With the Supreme Court ruling, the battle on the airwaves will only heat up.

Still, with the Supreme Court's backing, Mr. Obama looks more like a winner. Many analysts expect the decision will give the President a bump in the polls in coming days. And as Democrats play up the law's more popular provisions, negative public opinion toward the law could soften during the campaign.

When the history of the 2012 campaign is written, the last week of June is certain to get a chapter all its own.

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About the Author

Columnist Konrad Yakabuski writes on politics, policy and business for The Globe and Mail’s Comment section and Report on Business. More


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