Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
President Obama used one of the GOP’s favorite talking points against them in the wake of Thursday’s landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.
Taking the podium in the White House less than half an hour after Mitt Romney issued his response to the ruling, Obama applauded the decision, reiterated the specifics of the reforms contained in the legislation, and said it was time to move on.
“What we can’t do is fight the battles of two years ago or go back to the way things were,” Obama urged. And then he said a version of something that GOP presidential candidates and politicians have been saying for over a year: that familiar refrain of “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“Now’s the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time,” Obama said. “Putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people have the confidence that if they work hard they can get ahead.”
The GOP has hammered Obama endlessly for failing to focus on jobs. But Mitt Romney didn’t talk about jobs this morning. And Republicans haven’t really been talking about jobs today. They’ve been talking about the need to repeal Obamacare, and their renewed fervor to do it.
Reince Priebus, the GOP chair, tweeted a link to a newly-launched website, People v. Obamacare.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was quick to set a timeline for the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act yet again. Expect that vote to come the week of July 9th.
Mitt Romney said the only recourse after today’s ruling was clear. “If we want to replace Obamacare, we have to replace President Obama,” he said.
It’s a fantasy that the President and Democrats won’t have to continue to sell the Affordable Care Act to voters for the rest of the year (and beyond, if Obama wins re-election). But Obama’s remarks made it clear that his administration was prepared with a narrative in the event the law was upheld: make the party that says it’s number one priority is “jobs, jobs, jobs,” look like the party that’s more interested in fighting yesterday’s battles.
Will voters buy it? That depends on the next few rounds of GDP and unemployment figures, as well as which party wins the message war convincing Americans whether the Affordable Care Act is good policy or bad policy.
Republicans are out to win that war, and they’ve been aggressive so far. But pouncing could backfire if it looks like they've taken their eyes off the ball. The GOP gave President Obama a few lemons, and today, he made lemonade.