3 health care scenarios for the president

Barack Obama and his team know the health care law will be the defining legislative accomplishment of his term.

But that doesnt mean they want it to be the defining issue of the 2012 campaign.

The Supreme Court, of course, has other ideas. Later this month, the Roberts Court is expected to rule on the Affordable Care Act. The justices questions during arguments are a notoriously unpredictable guide but conventional wisdom predicts the law will at least be stripped of its keystone provision, the mandate that nearly every American buy their own health insurance. The court could even bring down the whole law.

Obamas brain trust believes public opinion about the law is already locked in, and the decision is coming early enough in the cycle that it wont have a huge impact on the race.

(See also: 10 best pro and con health care quotes)

The election will be about the economy. Period. Health care only matters in the context of the larger economy, a top Democrat with close ties to the campaign told POLITICO.

The presidents aides have vehemently denied the administration is prepping for the law to be overturned or gutted and theres good reason to downplay the notion they are scheming behind closed doors. Why antagonize the justices? Why admit the law might be unconstitutional?

But there is undeniable danger in the optics of an election-year health care defeat, just as there was in early 2010 when the bill teetered. Obama simply cant allow health care to be a Jimmy Carter-in-the-desert moment, proof that he recklessly, fecklessly pushed through a doomed law at the expense of focusing on the economy and jobs.

So quiet plans are under way inside the administration under the cone, away from the prying eyes of the press, advocates and Hill aides, according to people close to the situation.

These are the three main scenarios Obama is likely gaming out the ugly, the bad and the good in that order.

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3 health care scenarios for the president

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