WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, emboldened by the Supreme Court's affirmation of his health care overhaul, is now embracing the law while campaigning for re-election, just as Republican rival Mitt Romney steps back from it.

Obama sees a second chance to sell voters on the issue despite deep skepticism about it from many people. Romney is avoiding answering hard questions about how he would tackle health care, and thus missing the chance to energize voters who oppose the law.

Democrats say the president always planned to stress health care if the court upheld the law. A month after the ruling, he and his team are focused on promoting individual parts of the law that have proved more popular than the sum. The campaign is targeting its efforts on important groups of voters, including women and Hispanics, who, Obama aides say, will benefit greatly once the law takes full effect.

Before the decision, Obama did mention the law in campaign events. But the case he made to voters was hardly vigorous, especially considering the amount of time he dedicated to overhaul during his first year in year in office.

The primary focus of his campaign speeches remains the economy, the race's dominant issue. But the Supreme Court's favorable ruling appears to have freed Obama to speak about the health law more passionately and emphatically than before the case was decided.

His campaign also is running a television advertisement in eight of the most contested states that criticizes Romney for opposing mandatory health insurance coverage for contraception; that provision is in Obama's overhaul. A health care-focused Spanish-language ad is running in Nevada, Colorado and Florida.

"The Supreme Court has spoken," Obama told a cheering crowd at a recent fundraiser in New Orleans. "We are going to implement this law."

During an event near Seattle, Obama said passing the law was "the right thing to do" and he highlighted specific parts of the overhaul that his campaign believes resonate well with voters.

"Young people will be able to stay on their parents' plans till they're 26 years old," Obama said. "Women won't be getting charged more than men, and you'll be getting free preventive care. Seniors will see the cost of their prescription drugs go down. If you don't have health insurance we're going to help you get it."

His campaign has been aggressive in selling the health overhaul to women.

During a speech to female bloggers Thursday, the president said he's "not going to give any ground to those who would deny women their own health care choices."

Romney, who declared the overhaul a "bad law" after the court ruled, has become less aggressive and less expansive in his discussion of health care.

At some recent events, Romney hasn't talked about the issue at all. On Friday, while campaigning in Las Vegas, he made one brief mention of "Obamacare", pledging to get rid of it and return health care "to a setting of personal responsibility."

Romney hasn't featured health care prominently in any television ads since the ruling June 28, but has made a few high-profile comments. The Republican was booed repeatedly during a July speech to the NAACP when he pledged to repeal the law if elected.

He "has and will continue to discuss the president's failures on health care," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said, adding that the candidate "will deliver a new direction and will take action to repeal and replace Obamacare."

In a deadlocked race, Romney is hampered by his support for a health care measure similar to Obama's while he was Massachusetts governor. Also, Romney's calls for repeal raise complex questions about what he would do in place of the law; those are questions Romney has struggled to answer.

For Obama, there's a political risk in fully embracing his health care overhaul because the law remains unpopular with many.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in early July showed 47 percent of Americans supporting the law and 47 percent opposing it.

Yet the Obama campaign has been heartened by polls suggesting many people are ready to put the health care debate behind them.

For example, 56 percent of those questioned said they wanted to see the law's critics move on to other issues and stop their efforts to block the law from taking effect, according to a poll in early July by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Half of independent voters were among those who wanted to see lawmakers move on to other issues.

"Tens of millions of Americans are already reaping the benefits of health reform, and, now that the court has ruled, want to turn the page from the partisan fights of the last two years over its repeal," said Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager.

The way Obama and Romney have approached health care following the Supreme Court ruling isn't necessarily trickling down to state and local elections. For some Democrats, particularly those in more moderate or conservative districts, supporting the president's health care overhaul remains a significant electoral liability. For some Republicans, especially those in the House, running to repeal the law can be a guaranteed way to energize supporters.


Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa and Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.


Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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  • 1912

    Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • 1935

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1942

    Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 1945

    President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1960

    John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1965

    President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1974

    President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1976

    President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • 1986

    President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1988

    Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn't last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1993

    President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1997

    Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. (JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2003

    President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2008

    Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2009

    President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can't afford insurance. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • 2010

    With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • 2012

    On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term "Obamacare" and says the law shows "I do care." (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)