* Law may be constitutional, but it's not popular
* Romney raises more than $1.5 million after decision
* Repeal will be difficult if Romney is elected
(Updates/edits in paragraphs 15 and 18)
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON, June 28 The battle over President
Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law shifted from the Supreme
Court to the campaign trail on Thursday, as Republican
challenger Mitt Romney asked voters to throw Obama out of office
to get rid of the unpopular law.
The high court's 5-4 decision to uphold the law was a
setback for Romney and his fellow Republicans, who had hoped
that Obama's central policy achievement would be struck down as
But the overhaul remains unpopular, and Romney cast the Nov.
6 presidential election as the best chance for voters to
"Our mission is clear: If we're going to get rid of
Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama,"
Romney said on the roof of a building overlooking the U.S.
Most Americans oppose the law even though they strongly
support much of what it does, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll
released on Sunday. Obama's Democrats acknowledge that they have
done a poor job of selling the Affordable Care Act, as it is
known, and they suffered steep losses in the 2010 congressional
elections that followed the law's passage.
While the court decision avoids an embarrassment for Obama
in an election year, it could energize conservative voters who
were slow to warm to Romney during a months-long battle for the
Republican party nomination.
More than $1.5 million in donations poured in to Romney's
campaign in the hours following the decision, according to an
Romney could benefit from $9 million worth of ads attacking
the law that Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group,
said it would air in 12 battleground states starting on Friday.
The decision could also help Romney win undecided voters,
who oppose the law by a four-to-one margin, according to the
"This is great politically. Bad for the country, but great
politically," a Romney adviser said.
Still, it remains to be seen whether the decision will truly
shape the contours of a presidential race in which concerns
about the shaky economy have crowded out issues like healthcare
and the war in Afghanistan.
"For both sides, it's steady as she goes. Obama doesn't have
the hurdle of explaining how his program was struck down, but
Romney still has the broad doubts within the general public
about the program," said Cal Jillson, a political science
professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Romney cast his opposition to the law in economic terms,
arguing that its tax increases and new regulations would hurt
job creation and the overall size of the program would increase
the national debt.
"If we want good jobs and a bright economic future, for
ourselves and for our kids, we must replace Obamacare," he said.
He repeated his claim that it would cut the popular Medicare
health program for the elderly by $500 billion. Independent
groups have disputed that, saying Obama's law would reduce the
projected cost of the government-run plan over the coming 10
years without reducing benefits.
The reasoning in the court decision also gives Republicans a
new talking point by casting the law's most controversial
element - a requirement that individuals must buy health
insurance or pay a penalty - as a tax, rather than a mandate.
REPEAL COULD BE TOUGH
Romney's vow to repeal the law could prove difficult. Even
if his fellow Republicans win both chambers of Congress in the
Nov. 6 elections, Democrats, who control the Senate, will likely
retain enough seats in the chamber to keep the law in place.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to
repeal the healthcare law last year and has scheduled another
repeal vote for July 11. The measure has little chance of
passing the Senate.
Romney also must explain the awkward fact that he signed a
similar healthcare law while governor of Massachusetts.
"He owes the American people a clear, non-parsed explanation
of why he believes his decisions in Massachusetts are wrong for
the country, and exactly what he would do to help the American
people get the health care they need," said Obama campaign
manager Jim Messina.
Romney has begun to say what changes to healthcare he would
make if he were to repeal Obama's law, but he has yet to lay out
On Thursday, he said he would prohibit health insurers from
denying coverage to sick people - a central element of Obama's
law - and help states take their own approaches to expanding
coverage to the uninsured. He also called for measures to rein
in healthcare costs, but did not specify how he would do so.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Deborah Charles and
Alina Selyukh.; Editing by Alistair Bell and Christopher Wilson)