Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Are voters ready to move on?

By David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 2110 GMT (0510 HKT)
President Barack Obama reacts Thursday at the White House following the Supreme Court's health care ruling.
President Barack Obama reacts Thursday at the White House following the Supreme Court's health care ruling.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Gergen: Many have thought upholding of Obamacare would galvanize right
  • Gergen says Mitt Romney needs independents and others, who may be tired of this fight
  • He says court has been seen as battleground for health reform; now that's over tide could shift
  • Gergen: Obama presidential in his reaction; Romney must find better response than attacks

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- With the Supreme Court's thunderbolt, a crucial battle is over on health care, but the war surely goes on. Or does it?

There has been a widespread view among conservatives that if the court were to uphold Obamacare that would do more to galvanize the tea party and other parts of their base than any other outcome. Anger and frustration can be powerful motivators in politics.

On cue, Mitt Romney immediately seized upon the court's decision to whip up Republican voters, arguing that now the only way to replace Obamacare is to replace President Obama. House Republicans are promising a quick, symbolic vote to overturn the law after July Fourth. And conservative groups are preparing to pour in millions of dollars in ads against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will begin hitting as early as Friday.

David Gergen
David Gergen

Opinion: Health care victory, but still a long way to go

Clearly, the war moves to a new front as far as the right is concerned. And in truth, the GOP should be able to mobilize a higher turnout from its base this November.

But the base alone will not be enough to win: The GOP also needs to draw in boatloads more of moderate and centrist voters. And whether those folks are going to welcome new rounds of fighting over the health care law remains to be seen.

My hunch is that a sizable number will think the war over health care has gone on long enough, and they will want to move on to more important issues. Jobs and deficits have long been trumping health care around most dinner tables.

Obama: It's a victory for the people
Romney: I'll do what justices didn't
How will the court's ruling affect you?
Short-term loss for conservatives?

For better or worse, the court struggle came to be seen as the decisive battleground in trying to repeal the health reform law. Partisans on both sides, along with the press, created an expectation that the court would strike down the mandate, the keystone in the arch. Obama would be shown as another ineffectual Jimmy Carter, losing much of his authority.

Opinion: Liberty lost? The Supreme Court punts

But now that the court has spoken definitively on behalf of Obama -- and even Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the president -- there is likely to be a sense that the dam has broken. Especially among those who have been ambivalent about health care reform legislation -- and there are millions who like portions of it even though they don't much like it overall -- psychology may change. "Time to give it a rest; let's get our focus back to the economy."

How the public responds to the health care decision over the next couple of weeks will be critical. This is a moment when tides could shift.

Obama was smart in his reaction to the court: He didn't gloat too much over his huge victory, and he left open the door to alterations in the law in the months ahead. After some weeks of stumbling, he seemed presidential.

Romney is riding a tiger: To stay on top, he must continue to give voice to the tea party -- and if he falls off, as the joke goes, they will eat him. But a series of strident attacks against Obama and his health care plan will not be enough. To win, he must also reach voters beyond his base, showing that he understands their concerns and will speak for them, too.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

Overheard on CNN.com: Health care law a 'necessary evil'

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Gergen.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2248 GMT (0648 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2049 GMT (0449 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT