SALEM, Va. — With an eye on the Supreme Court ruling this week, Mitt Romney on Tuesday said President Barack Obama's time in office would have been wasted if the high court strikes down the president's signature health care overhaul.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee previewed his health care strategy while speaking to supporters outside a Virginia machine manufacturer just two days before the Supreme Court was expected to rule on the constitutionality of Obama's signature domestic achievement.
"If Obamacare is not deemed constitutional, 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 more than 1,000 supporters gathered outside Carter Machinery in southwest Virginia. "If it is deemed to stand, then I'll tell you one thing, we're going to have to have a president – and I'm that one – that's going to get rid of Obamacare. We're going to stop it on day one."
At a fundraiser in Atlanta Tuesday, Obama countered that his health care law was critical to expanding health care coverage for millions of Americans and preventing companies from discriminating against people who are sick.
"We don't need to refight this battle over health care. It's the right thing to do," Obama said.
Romney's plan would not prevent health care companies from denying coverage to new customers with medical conditions. Nor would he force them to cover young adults on their parents' plans through age 26.
Though the economy remains the No. 1 worry for voters, the health care ruling could have the biggest near-term political impact. If the Supreme Court upholds the law, it would mean validation for the president and the Democrats in Congress responsible for its passage in 2010. But the overhaul mobilized small-government advocates and was a big force behind the GOP takeover of the House that year. So if the law is upheld, Republicans have a clear case to make for strengthening their numbers and their power to overturn all or parts of it.
Romney has public events scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday in Virginia, a state that has been an aggressive opponent to the health care law under Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The former Massachusetts governor is expected to deliver public remarks in Washington following the Supreme Court ruling Thursday.
Romney's promise to repeal the health care law has become a pillar in an agenda that so far offers voters few other specifics. He released a new television ad campaign late last week stressing that the elimination of the health care law will be the top priority in his administration's first 100 days.
Should the court strike down the law, however, attention would turn quickly to what he would do to help 50 million uninsured people get coverage and bring down the nation's spiraling health care costs.
Only about one-third of Americans support the law, according to a recent AP-GfK poll, but 77 percent want the president and Congress to start working on a new health care bill if the Supreme Court rules the 2010 overhaul unconstitutional.
Romney has promised to replace the measure with a handful of "common-sense" reforms, but has spent little time so far crafting a comprehensive plan. He did not address any plans to replace the law Tuesday.
Obama was set to appear Tuesday at two fundraisers in Atlanta, followed by two events in Florida.