Gas prices and five other liabilities for Obama in 2012

2. Health-care reform

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    Opponents of the proposed health-care bill rally outside the Capitol Building in Washington, March 21, 2010.
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Americans have mixed views of the Affordable Care Act overall. It contains many popular provisions, but voters are also worried that it’s expensive, expands the role of government in health care, and contains the unpopular “individual mandate,” which requires people to purchase insurance or pay a penalty.

But the reform doesn’t contain liabilities for Obama just among Republicans and independents. Some progressives are unhappy with the president for abandoning the idea of a truly government-run, "single-payer" health-care system before the game started, and for giving up on the so-called public option, a government-run insurance alternative, early in the negotiations.

A March poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that while 46 percent of the public had an unfavorable view of the law, versus 42 percent favorable, a full 51 percent oppose repeal. And a significant portion of that 51 percent are those who say they want to see the law expanded.

If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination, Obama’s health reform becomes less of a liability. Mr. Romney’s reform of the Massachusetts health-care system served as the model for Obama’s – including an individual mandate – and having to explain the difference between federal and state reform makes for a softer argument.

If Romney is not the nominee, the individual mandate is a big liability for Obama, especially as the issue of its constitutionality works its way through the courts. And in a bad piece of timing for the president, the case (or cases) could reach the Supreme Court right in the thick of the 2012 campaign. If the high court strikes down the individual mandate – or even the whole law – before the election, that would be a huge embarrassment for Obama.

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