chief justice john roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts

*Just like that, the Obama administration has its mojo back.

After a few terrible months – buffeted by terrible economic news, the failed Wisconsin recall and a puzzling lack of on-message support from supposed allies – the president got an enormous boost from the unlikeliest of sources. To the absolute astonishment of just about everyone on both sides, it was John Roberts – the chief justice appointed by Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush – that broke the four-four tie on the health care decision and sided with the liberal judges to preserve Obama’s signature program.

It was an enormous, unexpected coup for Obama at a time when he sorely needed one, stripping the “unconstitutional” argument away from attacks by the right. It also leaves Romney with the strange stance of attacking Obama on the constitutionally-valid health care system partially modeled after the plan that he helped to create during his time as Massachusetts governor, an awkward political tap-dance if there ever was one.

That wasn’t the only positive piece of news from the Obama camp this week. It seems as though the G.O.P. may have overreached in its latest attempt of scandal manufacturing. The “Fast and the Furious” program (get a primer on it here) has fueled hours and pages of chatter, speculation and accusations on right-wing blogs, television and radio – with Ann Coulter going so far as to declare it that the “Obama administration has almost certainly engaged in the most shockingly vile corruption scandal in the history of the country.”  The investigation into the program even brought about a contempt-of-court charge to Attorney General Eric Holder. Yet, as it turns out, the real problems behind the scandal can be directly tied back to the loose gun laws in deeply-red Arizona, as this excellent Fortune magazine piece details. Thus, it might turn out that this line of attack could open up some thorny gun-control questions for the right.

Taking a wider view of the campaign, it might help to think of this incredibly close presidential race as a boxing match – each side landing punches and taking punishment, winning and losing each round until one person’s arm gets raised by the American public on election day. So, after a long run of bad news, it’s safe to put this round squarely in the “Obama” column. There’s still a long time to go – who knows what another spate of bad economic news might do – but a week that sees one of his banner bills secured and some holes punctured in a right-wing talking point should do wonders to get the campaign back on track.