(Bloomberg View) — A Wall Street Journal editorial Friday predicted what would happen if Republicans won the King vs. Burwell case, which the Supreme Court is expected to decide any week now. The Journal said that if Obamacare subsidies disappeared in states with (mostly) Republican governors, there could be another “friendly-fire massacre” as people blamed the party for the collapse of the individual insurance market.
On the other hand, Jeffrey Toobin, in the New Yorker, predicted “the political pain will fall almost exclusively on the president and his party.”
Who has the better case? Remembering, of course, that the court could decide against the King plaintiffs.
Toobin’s argument is straightforward. Most people don’t pay attention to the details of politics. They only know enough to be aware that President Barack Obama and the Democrats reformed health care. That means that if they can’t get health insurance (or the price suddenly skyrockets), it must be Obama’s fault.
At an even more basic level: bad things of any kind usually hurt the president’s popularity, whether he had anything to do with it or not.
There’s some truth to Toobin’s take, but it’s not the entire story, because “who will people blame?” isn’t necessarily the relevant question.
It might be more useful to look at the legislative logic: Will Republicans in Congress believe their constituents will demand a solution if Obamacare starts to disappear.