CBS's O'Donnell: Court Striking Down ObamaCare 'Might Be Better for the President'

On Sunday's Face The Nation, Norah O'Donnell desperately tried to find a silver lining for President Obama if the Supreme Court ends up striking down his health care law. While her fellow panelists agreed that such a decision would be a blow to Obama, O'Donnell claimed that "politically, it might be better for the President, because then he can put the onus back on the Republicans." [audio clip available here; video below]

The CBS White House correspondent also hyped that "if there's a repealing of the mandate, and if the pre-existing conditions are taken out, you're probably going to see a spike in health care premiums," even though premiums have already been on the rise since ObamaCare passed in 2010.

Host Bob Schieffer raised the impending Court decision on the law midway through a panel discussion with O'Donnell, CBS News political director John Dickerson, Time's Joe Klein, and Dan Balz of The Washington Post. Schieffer first turned to Dickerson and asked, "What happens, John, if the Court throws this thing out?" The director led with the negatives for the chief executive in his reply:

DICKERSON: Well, I don't think we know. I think it's bad for the President. I think, you know, this was his signature plan. This was the thing he banked everything on. I think Romney is able to say, look...his priorities were out of whack. He should have stayed focused on jobs. Here, he was off doing this thing, and he's kind of gotten a big thumbs-down. For voters out there who weren't paying attention to every detail, it looks like a kind of anti-seal of approval.

However, Dickerson did see an opening for the Obama: "He [Romney] gets into a fight where it's now a choice between his plan for the future, and the President's plan for the future, and that's a fight the President wants to have. So if he can get through this bad news - the President gets into a debate with Mitt Romney - that might actually not be so great for Mitt Romney."

O'Donnell then chimed in with her pro-Obama spin:

O'DONNELL: One of the main rationales for conservatives, for businessmen -- we saw it was a rallying point during the Republican primary debate -- was to repeal and replace ObamaCare. If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual and employer mandate, and also, takes out the coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, you could make the argument that it neutralizes the issue, in some ways, for Republicans. Politically, it might be better for the President, because then he can put the onus back on the Republicans to say, okay, Mitt Romney: you've said you wanted to repeal it and replace it. What are you going to replace it with? Or you in Congress: are you going to move forward to protect those who have pre-existing conditions who can't get coverage?

And then, I think what you're going to see too is with the --  if there's a repealing of the mandate, and if the pre-existing conditions are taken out, you're probably going to see a spike in health care premiums, because the coverage of preventive care stays in there, the allowing of children under twenty-six stays in there. This is still a really interesting debate, whichever way this turns out by the Supreme Court.

Klein seconded Dickerson's take in his answer, and also corrected the CBS correspondent on the issue of premiums, even though he put a liberal spin on it:

KLEIN: First of all, we're kind of jumping the gun here. I think, you know, as I watched the news coverage today, everybody seems to assume that it's going to be overturned. It may not. But if it is - if it is - that's not a good thing for the President. I think people will say, he tried to do something that was unconstitutional. And, as for the premiums, people already are getting huge premium spikes this year, because the health insurance companies have been wanting to blame that on ObamaCare.

Balz emphasized in his reply that regardless of the Court's ruling, the political momentum is on the side of the ObamaCare's opponents going into the fall election: "I think that public opinion on this is a little bit like we had in Iraq back in, say, 2006. People made up their minds what they think about this bill, almost irrespective of what the Court decides on it. I think also that the energy on this issue has always been on the side of the opponents, and I suspect that almost no matter what happens this week, that's likely to be the case going into November."

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.