WASHINGTON - Whichever way the Supreme Court rules on the health-care law Thursday, Mitt Romney is preparing to claim victory.
If the court invalidates the statute, "then the first three-and-a-half years of this president's term will have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people," Romney told voters Tuesday at an outdoor rally at Carter Machinery, a construction company in Salem, Va.
"If it is deemed to stand, then I'll tell you one thing - then we'll have to have a president, and I'm that one, that's going to get rid of Obamacare," the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. "We're going to stop it on day one."
The double-barreled message suggests that Romney will try to gain a political advantage no matter what the court decides. If all or part of President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act falls, the former Massachusetts governor will cite the ruling as vindication for his argument that the measure is an unwarranted overreach of federal authority that is bad for the country.
If the court upholds the statute, Romney will redouble his efforts to make erasing it a focus of his challenge to Obama in the Nov. 6 election.
The measure, which Obama pushed through a divided Congress in 2010 with no Republican support, is designed to extend coverage to at least 30 million uninsured Americans and reshape an industry that makes up about 18 percent of the U.S. economy. The biggest health-care overhaul since the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965, its individual mandate would require that most Americans have insurance. The law also bars insurers from denying policies to those suffering from pre-existing medical conditions.
The law is being challenged before the court by 26 states and a business trade group.
Romney told about 200 donors at a Woodbridge, N.J., fundraising reception last night that Obama and his team had spent three years "fighting to put in place their idea of a liberal vision for health care." If the Supreme Court sides with them, he said, "it will make it very clear to the American people that they must elect someone who will stop it, because it's bad policy, it's bad medicine."
An individual health insurance mandate was proposed more than 20 years ago by the Republican-aligned Heritage Foundation, and before Obama embraced it as part of his health-care legislation the provision had the support of many Republicans.
The health-care overhaul that Romney, 65, pushed to enactment while he was governor of Massachusetts also contained such a mandate. Romney argues that while that provision was the right one for his state, it's inappropriate to apply it nationally.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama's health-care plan drawing 36 percent support from the public while 52 percent rate it unfavorably. At the same time, only 39 percent favor the current system and 56 percent don't favor it. Even as the survey found dissatisfaction with the overall health-care system, 75 percent rated their own quality of care favorably, ABC said.
Romney has no public events scheduled for Thursday. He will attend fundraisers in New York, which include a dinner at a private residence at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan with real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who flirted with his own presidential run before endorsing Romney and becoming an active fundraiser for the presumed Republican nominee.
Michael Cohen, a Trump spokesman, confirmed that the two would dine together at the event. Rick Gorka, a Romney campaign spokesman, said he couldn't confirm or deny that Romney would attend the event, saying "it's not ours to confirm."