WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama, emboldened bythe Supreme Court’s affirmation of his health care overhaul, is now embracing the law while campaigning for re-election, just as Republican rival Mitt Romney steps back from it.
Obama sees a second chance to sell voters on the issue despite deep skepticism about it from many people. Romney is avoiding answering hard questions about how he would tackle health care, and thus missing the chance to energize voters who oppose the law.
Democrats say the president always planned to stress health care if the court upheld the law. A month after the ruling, he and his team are focused on promoting individual parts of the law that have proved more popular than the sum. The campaign is targeting its efforts on important groups of voters, including women and Hispanics, who, Obama aides say, will benefit greatly once the law takes full effect.
Before the decision, Obama did mention the law in campaign events. But the case he made to voters was hardly vigorous, especially considering the amount of time he dedicated to overhaul during his first year in year in office.
The primary focus of his campaign speeches remains the economy, the race’s dominant issue. But theSupreme Court’s favorable ruling appears to have freed Obama to speak about the health law more passionately and emphatically than before the case was decided.
His campaign also is running a television advertisement in eight of the most contested states that criticizes Romney for opposing mandatory health insurance coverage for contraception; that provision is in Obama’s overhaul. A health care-focused Spanish-language ad is running in Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
At some recent events, Romney hasn’t talked about the issue at all. On Friday, while campaigning in Las Vegas, he made one brief mention of “Obamacare”, pledging to get rid of it and return health care “to a setting of personal responsibility.”
Romney hasn’t featured health care prominently in any television ads since the ruling June 28, but has made a few high-profile comments. The Republican was booed repeatedly during a July speech to the NAACP when he pledged to repeal the law if elected.
He “has and will continue to discuss the president’s failures on health care,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said, adding that the candidate “will deliver a new direction and will take action to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
In a deadlocked race, Romney is hampered by his support for a health care measure similar to Obama’s while he was Massachusetts governor. Also, Romney’s calls for repeal raise complex questions about what he would do in place of the law; those are questions Romney has struggled to answer.
For Obama, there’s a political risk in fully embracing his health care overhaul because the law remains unpopular with many.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in early July showed 47 percent of Americans supporting the law and 47 percent opposing it.
Yet the Obama campaign has been heartened by polls suggesting many people are ready to put the health care debate behind them.