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WASHINGTON -- After the health care law passed in 2010, President Obama and his aides celebrated the passage of his signature achievement with a toast on the Truman Balcony at the White House.

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When the Supreme Court announced its landmark decision Thursday that upheld most of the law, the response was more muted.

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That was because the political impact on November's hard-fought election is at least mixed. The court decision that lets the signature achievement of Obama's first term stand avoided what would have been a calamitous rebuke for the former constitutional law professor who had staked so much of his presidency on passing it.

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Still, Republicans can argue to voters that the only way to repeal what they call Obamacare is at the ballot box, a message that is sure to energize those who most avidly oppose the law.

"The Supreme Court gives Obama a legacy and gives Romney an issue of now greater potency," says William Galston of the Brookings Institution.

Obama praised the decision in the East Room, the same spot where he signed the law with such high hopes two years ago.

"It should be clear by now that I didn't do this because it was good politics," Obama said. "I did it because it was good for the country."

Even after some of the most popular provisions of the law have gone into effect - helping seniors with prescription costs and allowing young people to stay on their parents' insurance plans - most Americans have yet to embrace the law: 52% in an ABC News/Washington Post poll last week said they have an "unfavorable impression" of it.

When Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, spoke to reporters a few minutes before Obama did, his podium was festooned with a sign that declared, "Repeal and Replace Obamacare."

"It's obviously a big policy win in terms of the Affordable Care Act," says Phil Musser, a Republican strategist who was senior adviser for Tim Pawlenty's presidential bid. "But this will mobilize the hell out of conservatives in the fall."

Mike Franc of the conservative Heritage Foundation says the financial impact of the law on the middle class will probably become a key Romney talking point on the campaign trail in the coming months. "It won't be the only talking point," he says, "but it will probably be the first one."

The money started rolling in almost immediately after the decision.

Videos from the Supreme Court ruling on the health care law.

The conservative group Americans For Prosperity announced it was launching a $9 million advertising blitz today to make the case that Obama "forced through the largest tax in American history." By evening, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul announced the campaign had received more than $2.5 million in contributions.

The Republican National Committee and conservative groups emphasized the court's rationale that the individual mandate - the heart of the law that allows the government to fine Americans who can afford coverage but don't purchase it - is constitutional only because the penalty "functions like a tax" and is therefore allowed under Congress' taxing power. In an interview in 2009, Obama had argued that the individual mandate was not a tax.

Romney faces complications of his own. As Obama noted in his statement, the signature achievement of the Republican's term as governor of Massachusetts was a health care plan that included an individual mandate.

Obama stressed that it was time to get beyond the politics of the decision.

That's not likely to happen any time soon.

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