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Bessent: Barack Obama's high-stakes gamble on health care

Barack Obama made a bold, all-in bet last fall when he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of his signature health care law in the thick of the presidential campaign.

It was best for the nation to have the legal questions hanging over the controversial law resolved before the November election. But for Obama, it was a high-stakes gamble that the court wouldn’t eviscerate the law -- and in the process, hand ammunition to fevered critics branding him a radical willing to trash the U.S. Constitution in pursuit of some fanciful, socialist utopia. That would have been a devastating blow to his reelection campaign.

He won big today when the court ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

Of course Obama’s reelection is far from assured. Republican candidate Mitt Romney can now tell voters who don’t like the law that electing him is their only hope of killing it.

And the mandate in the law that almost everyone buy insurance or pay a fine survived only because the court ruled that penalty is really a tax — a word Obama avoided like the plague when fighting for passage. And the law’s expansion of Medicaid to cover millions of the uninsured took a hit when the court said Washington couldn't take away existing federal Medicaid funding from states that refuse to sign on.

But this was a big one for the president.