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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News (TNS)

With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to issue blockbuster rulings on same-sex marriage and health care, Republicans have a blueprint for victory: They need to lose.

Republicans have played a leading role in asking the court to undercut Obamacare by barring tax subsidies for people who buy insurance in at least 34 states. GOP state officials are urging the court to uphold their gay-marriage bans.

Yet legal success on either front would throw the party — and its presidential candidates — into a political thicket. A victory on health care could strip insurance from more than 6 million people, including policyholders in the states set to cast the first votes for the Republican nomination: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

And ruling against gay marriage would make the issue a focal point for the 2016 general election, leaving Republicans to argue against a right supported by six in 10 Americans.

Both rulings are due by the end of June as the court finishes its nine-month term with its traditional flurry of major opinions.

In both cases, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts hold the votes that might save Republicans from what could be a political disaster. Kennedy’s track record suggests he will join the four Democratic appointees to back marriage rights, while Roberts cast the vote that saved Obamacare in a case three years ago.

A ruling against Obamacare would throw American health-care into a new period of turmoil. Unless the justices delayed the effective date of the decision — something the court hasn’t done since 1982 — it would almost quadruple the average premium for affected policyholders in a matter of months.

What’s more, the ruling might send the individual insurance markets in the affected states into what economists call a “death spiral”: The higher premiums would mean that only the sickest and most desperate buy insurance. That would cause premiums to rise even more.

That scenario would pressure Republicans on multiple levels. In the states, officials who until now have resisted Obamacare would face calls to set up exchanges so that residents could continue to collect the tax credits. In Washington, Republican lawmakers would suddenly have to shift from trying to dismantle Obamacare to managing the fallout.

“If the Supreme Court rules against it, they’re going to have to have an answer for the millions that now are relying on this insurance,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist and ex-aide to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi. “They’ll have to provide a credible alternative.”

Senate Republicans led by Ron Johnson of Wisconsin (who is up for re-election next year) are already proposing a bill that would extend the tax credits through the 2016 election. The measure, however, would also repeal the law’s individual and employer mandates, which require people to acquire insurance and businesses to offer it. Those provisions would almost certainly mean White House opposition, making the bill as it stands more a political statement than an avenue to fill the hole the high court ruling might open.

“I’m not sure it will be enough to say, ‘We’ve got an approach but the president will veto it,'” said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion specialist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “Something will have to happen pretty quickly so those people are not without coverage.”

On gay marriage, the party’s longstanding opposition has left it at odds with public opinion. The latest Gallup poll shows record support for legalized same-sex marriage, with 60 percent favoring and 37 percent opposed. Same-sex couples can now wed in 36 states.
A Supreme Court ruling against gay marriage would set up a new round of state-by-state fights. Some of those battles would occur in court, as judges sort out the effects of earlier rulings legalizing marriage.

Other fights would take place at the ballot box. Marriage advocates could try to put the issue before voters in Ohio and Michigan, two presidential swing states where gay marriage is currently illegal.

Supporters might also look to Arizona and Colorado, states that now have gay marriage because of court rulings. A Supreme Court decision potentially would nullify those rulings, forcing supporters to turn to ballot initiatives.

The fracas would leave Republican candidates in a bind, forcing them to try to placate the social conservatives who are key to winning the party’s presidential nomination without alienating middle-of-the-road voters who support gay marriage and who are key to winning the general election.

“Having it continue to go through a domino effect isn’t necessarily helpful for Republican candidates who are trying to appeal a wider section of voters than just social conservatives,” Bonjean said.

A ruling legalizing gay marriage wouldn’t entirely take the issue off the political table. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is calling for a constitutional amendment to allow states to ban the practice. And many opponents would view the Supreme Court decision as an overreach and an infringement of religious rights, says Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

“I don’t think this is the final chapter at all,” Anuzis said. “I think it will focus the fight and again probably re-energize people because now they will have a very specific target.”

Even so, people on both sides of the issue say many Republicans would prefer seeing gay marriage fade as a political issue.

“They’d probably be better off losing the gay marriage issue, politically that is,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. “It would remove the issue from the debate, and the GOP is now on the wrong side, politically, of the debate.”

(c)2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: GOP against Obamacare via Flickr

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]