Barack Obama and Mitt Romney wasted little time rushing to the cameras when the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the president's sweeping health care reform law.
Their remarks after the June ruling were a contrast of competing rhetoric over a contentious piece of legislation, and a prism into how each candidate hopes to quietly change the makeup of the federal courts.
"Americans are probably paying much more attention to the economy than the Supreme Court," said Thomas Goldstein, a top appellate attorney and SCOTUSblog.com publisher.
"But they should be thinking about presidential court appointments, because they'll make a big difference in the future of the law. You think about things like same-sex marriage, affirmative action, voting rights -- all of these are issues that have very different ideological components to them, and the more conservative justices definitely have a different view," he said.
But the landmark health care ruling had exactly zero impact on the presidential race at the time as a CNN/ORC poll just days later showed virtually no change in opinions on public attitudes toward Obama or Romney.
It is an unusual dynamic: the Supreme Court traditionally rates near the bottom when voters are asked to list the issues most important to them, but the high-profile issues the justices decide -- hot-button topics like health care, abortion, economic and tax reforms -- remain of consistent concern to the electorate.
The high court is poised to maintain a period of bench stability for at least a couple more years, barring an unexpected illness or personal crisis. This, after four court vacancies from 2005-2010 brought on Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
Still, many court watchers anticipate the man sitting in the Oval Office through 2016 could name at least one and perhaps as many as three members to the Supreme Court. And the recent health care decision may have raised the already high stakes on the makeup of the federal bench at large.
"Even more Americans are watching who is on the Supreme Court this election cycle, more so perhaps they have in the past, because there's a clear connection between who is on the court and how that affects your daily life," said Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center. "The Supreme Court and its ideological divide is really placing the Constitution and the country in many ways at a crossroads."