Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been careful not to make too much of the health care reform he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. The similarity of “Romneycare” to the “Obamacare” reforms signed by President Barack Obama has made his base extremely leery. While Romney made it through the primary by arguing that Massachusetts had the right to enact health care reform, but the federal government can’t, that argument was destroyed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, which held that the law was, in fact, constitutional.
Since the court upheld the Affordable Care Act, Romney has said he would work to reverse the law on “day one” of his presidency. But faced with a negative ad that ties the death of an uninsured woman to Bain Capital, Romney’s campaign has flip-flopped yet again, by claiming that the woman would have lived — if only she had Romneycare.
“To that point, if people had been in Massachusetts, under Gov. Romney’s health care plan, they would have had health care,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said on Fox News. “There are a lot of people losing their jobs and losing their health care in President Obama’s economy.”
Romney, meanwhile, has backed away from saying he would eliminate all health care reforms, saying at a Wednesday rally, “We’ve got to do some reforms in health care, and I have some experience doing that as you know, and I know how to make a better setting than the one we have in health care.”
The abrupt change has left conservatives apoplectic. Conservative blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson tweeted, “This might just be the moment Mitt Romney lost the election. Wow.” He expanded his argument in a later blog post, saying, “[I]f we are not vocally on the record now that it is madness for the Romney camp to praise a failed healthcare regime in Massachusetts, between the press and Romney’s present enablers, we’ll surrender that right after the election.”
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh agreed.
“Andrea Saul’s appearance on Fox was a potential gold mine for Obama supporters,” Limbaugh said. “They can say, ‘Romneycare was the basis for our health care.’”
Indeed, the plan signed by Obama is very similar to Romneycare in form and function, and had its origin in the conservative Heritage Foundation. Given that conservatives like Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., have called Obamacare “the greatest attack on our freedom since 1776,” Romney’s support of similar laws makes them far from sanguine about their chances of repealing the Affordable Care Act, even if Romney wins in the fall.
The pivot, calculated or not, threatens to crack Romney’s base, which has thus far been held together by a desire to defeat Obama in the fall. If Romney’s base starts to fall away, Romney’s chances of winning will evaporate.
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore
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