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Supreme Court popularity hits new low. Will Obama attack?

Only 52 percent of the American public views the Supreme Court favorably. If the high court rules against Obama on health care or immigration he may be tempted to attack. But that would be risky.

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The Supreme Court in Washington.

Charles Dharapak/AP/File

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Public approval of the Supreme Court has reached a new low in the 25 years since the Pew Research Center began polling on the high court’s favorability.

Only 52 percent of the American public has a favorable opinion of the court, down from 64 percent three years ago and a high of 80 percent favorability in 1994, Pew reported on Tuesday.  The Supreme Court is still more popular than Congress (by far) and President Obama (by a slimmer margin), but its popularity is no longer in the stratosphere – and that may open the door to attacks by the president as he runs for reelection.

Two major cases before the Supreme Court address important pieces of Mr. Obama’s record – his reform of the health-care system and his opposition to Arizona’s law cracking down on illegal immigration. If the court rules against his positions on either or both cases, a real possibility, Obama will face a decision on how, if at all, to address the court’s actions on the campaign trail.

Early in April, Obama fired a warning shot across the bow of the court, which had recently heard three days of argument on the Affordable Care Act.

“Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected congress,” Obama said at a press conference with the president of Mexico.

“And I would like to remind conservative commentators that for years what we have heard is that the biggest problem is judicial activism and that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

The remarks unleashed a firestorm of criticism that Obama, who once taught constitutional law, might not believe the Supreme Court has the right to determine the constitutionality of a law. His spokesmen offered reassurances that he does understand the role of the high court, and he has not made similar comments since.

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