Even though Henry Hudson's ruling against the constitutionality of the health care mandate is almost certain to be overturned, it does guarantee that the mandate issue will be the centerpiece of the conservative case against reform. That's going to be a big problem for Mitt Romney, given that the centerpiece of RomneyCare in Massachusetts was the individual mandate. As Larry Sabato says:
“The longer this goes on and the more it’s in the headlines, the worse for Romney,” said Larry Sabato, who heads the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “When will it get to the Supreme Court? At least a year. That puts it right in the middle of the presidential political season — which would be a nightmare for Romney.”
Romney has repeatedly defended the mandate, including calling it the "ultimate conservative plan."
Despite his longstanding support for the mandate, now Romney's running away from it as fast as he can:
Romney’s spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom lauded Hudson’s ruling yesterday, repeating Romney’s argument that states should have the power to control their own health-care systems, not federal officials.
“The ruling supports Mitt Romney’s view that Obamacare is an unconstitutional power grab by Washington. We should repeal the law and return to the states the power to determine their own health-care solutions,” said Fehrnstrom in a statement.
Uh, so when Romney signed a mandate into law in Massachusetts, it was "the ultimate conservative plan," but when Barack Obama took that idea and deployed at at the national level it became "an unconstitutional power grab." M'kay. I guess some conservatives might be swayed by Romney's attempt to turn this into a state's rights issue, but that seems like a pretty flagrant case of hair-splitting. The bottom-line is that until it became politically inconvenient, Romney was a big booster of individual mandates. Now that the political winds have turned, he thinks they are the worst thing ever.
If we learned nothing else from the 2010 GOP primary season, it's that Romney-style political maneuvering doesn't play with the Republican electorate. So while polls may say that Mitt Romney would be the GOP's best candidate against Barack Obama, I'd bet everything I have that he won't end up being the nominee.