President Barack Obama's re-election campaign switched gears last week, and is now in overdrive mode. The U.S. Supreme Court decision to largely uphold the president's health care law has been interpreted by some constituencies and several media outlets as a political victory that carries wide-ranging implications. (Actually, the court simply said the law does not have to be struck down on constitutional grounds.) This invigorated the campaign and gave it new momentum that could help Obama's re-election prospects in November.
Five justices (three of whom, by the way, are Jewish) voted for upholding the law, while the other four justices wanted to strike it down, but politically speaking, this razor-thin majority does not make any difference. Even if the Republican House of Representatives tries to legislate its own version of Israel's "court-bypass bill", it is doubtful whether such a measure would undo the ruling, at least in the short term. Throughout June, pundits and experts kept making reference to Obama's "horrible month." Nothing seemed to go his way in June: Unemployment numbers remained high; the economy just wouldn't take off, despite a slight uptick in the real estate market; Obama's foreign policy had been widely criticized; and if that wasn't enough, Obama's own attorney-general was found in contempt of Congress after he refused to hand in certain documents [on a bungled drug bust in Mexico involving federal agents] and may be on his way out. Similarly, Obama's commerce secretary had to resign after being involved in two hit-and-run accidents because of a medical condition.
The way things unfolded seems awfully strange and may look like a paradox. But even Obama's victory on the health-care law could actually turn out be a Pyrrhic victory. Polls show that most Americans, including many Democrats, oppose "Obamacare," the derogative term used by opponents of the health-care reform, even though they are unsatisfied with the current state of the health-care system. A Washington Post/ABC News polls released the day the Supreme Court handed down its decision found that 52 percent of respondents have a somewhat unfavorable or strongly unfavorable view of Obama's health-care legislation. In other words, the Republican's presumptive nominee, former Governor Mitt Romney, can still win this battle.
That said, while Romney may have been slightly ahead last week, the horse race has now been reset, at least temporarily, and the GOP challenger may now have a steeper hill to climb if he wants to unseat the incumbent president. Despite the reverberations from the Supreme Court decision on the health-care law, Romney may have to compete on issues that are considered Obama's strong suit, such as immigration policy. The president's decision to ratchet down deportations of illegal immigrants, most of whom are Latinos, has helped his popularity. Of course, the race is far from over; while Obama currently enjoys a slight lead over Romney, the latter could turn the tables on him by November.
But Americans are not the only ones who have to consider the implications of the elections; the friends and foes of the United States also have to weigh this issue. Tehran must surely be closely watching which way the needle moves in the U.S.'s political Geiger counter; the same applies to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo.
Of course, the two possible outcomes in the election have been discussed in Jerusalem as well. Whichever candidate wins, the elections are not a zero-sum game. The bilateral relations, as well as the shared or even contradicting, interests should be factored in as part of this analysis. But so should the real or perceived erosion in America's standing in the world and in the Middle East in particular. The consequences the elections may have on Israel's security should also be considered. At stake is not just the U.S.'s health-care system, but also, to a large extent, the health of the world and Israel itself.