Judge's Obamacare ruling: Advantage Democrats: COLUMN

This does not bode well for the GOP if health care is a major issue in 2020.

December 18, 2018, 5:02 AM

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true." This proverb seems incredibly apropos in the aftermath of the decision by a federal judge in Texas -- U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor -- who recently ruled the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was unconstitutional.

Let us set aside for now two very important points of this ruling -- that the judge is likely to be overruled on appeal, and that this ruling, if allowed to stand, would impact millions of citizens who depend on Obamacare -- and let us look at the political dynamics of this ruling and it's likely effect on the current partisan environment.

I want to emphasize three important points of that political analysis that together are predictably going to harm the GOP in future elections -- and for the GOP that's fought for years to repeal Obamacare: Be careful what you wish for. As I said on "Good Morning America" recently, Republicans celebrating this ruling is a bit like a football team celebrating a touchdown right before halftime while a number of their star players are injured and unable to play in the second half.

PHOTO: The federal website where consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is shown on a computer screen, Nov. 1, 2018.
The federal website where consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is shown on a computer screen, Nov. 1, 2018.
HealthCare.gov via AP, File

First, the Affordable Care Act is at its highest level of popularity among the general public. Today, a majority of Americans support and have a favorable view of the ACA, including nearly all Democrats, a large number of Independents and a significant minority share of Republicans. While the ACA caused fits for the Democrats and President Barack Obama in the 2010 midterms, today repealing it is seen in a very negative light.

Second, in looking at whom Americans trust to handle health care, by a large margin voters trust Democrats far more than Republicans or the president on handling health care issues -- in fact of all the major issues between the two parties, this is the best issue for Democrats to run on. In looking at the midterm elections held last month, in key races Democrats ran on health care, which put Republicans at a disadvantage among voters who decided many key elections up and down the ballot. This does not bode well for the GOP if health care is once again a major issue in 2020.

Third, as more and more Democrats speak out for the idea of "Medicare for all," this ruling will embolden those voices and increase the odds that Medicare for all will begin to have a legitimate chance of passage at least in one of the sides of Congress. It is also important to keep in mind that Medicare for all has consistently been on the rise in polling, and today is supported by a majority of Americans. And this was true before the Texas judge’s ruling last week on Obamacare. And add to this that the 2020 presidential race will begin in earnest in 2019 as Democratic candidates position themselves among primary voters who by huge margins want Medicare for all. It is likely that for the first time in this modern age, the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 will be a strong advocate for Medicare for all -- and that position will have electoral advantages and not disadvantages.

To quote another adage, "There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip," so there is much to be decided at different court levels on this issue ahead and Obamacare is still in place while appeals occur, but for now from a purely political perspective, the advantage on this one goes heavily to the Democrats.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.

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