As Crowley gamely explained, he has to, but can’t. Defend the program unapologetically and his primary opponents will savage him over the obvious parallels to Obama’s ACA. Disavow Massachusetts and he opens himself up to the more lasting, and perhaps more stinging critique of a very capable Republican candidate that has haunted him in the past: naked political expediency. For now, he’s still trying to split the baby. Here’s what Romney had to say over the weekend in New Hampshire:
Living in New Hampshire, you’ve heard of our healthcare program next door in Massachusetts. You may have noticed that the President and his people spend more time talking about me and Massachusetts healthcare than Entertainment Tonight spends talking about Charlie Sheen.
Our approach was a state plan intended to address problems that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts. What we did was what the Constitution intended for states to do—we were one of the laboratories of democracy.
Our experiment wasn’t perfect—some things worked, some didn’t, and some things I’d change. One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover.
I would repeal Obamacare, if I were ever in a position to do so. My experience has taught me that states are where healthcare programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law, bad policy, and it is bad for America’s families.
The review in Sunday’s right-leaning Boston Herald was something less than stellar, and included the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” The cover was every bit as scathing:
(Pic via TPM)
Though the the whole situation is different from a standalone gaffe — it’s an issue of dogmatic importance to the Republican base — I’ve never bought into the idea that this is fatal to his candidacy. There are structural factors like, say, the state of the economy, the makeup of the primary field, his organizational and fundraising strengths, the potency of the electability argument, etc. that have the potential to render the health care stumbling block more or less moot. And I think Matt Ygelsias is largely right in (melodramatically) pointing out that, well, there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate:
Recall that Barack Obama said affection for Jesus Christ and firearms is a form of false consciousness. It turned out that his self-described spiritual mentor was a black nationalist peddling nutty AIDS conspiracy theories who thinks 9/11 was “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” And Obama not only won, he won easily against a decorated war hero.
But as long as Romney is explaining health reform this way, Republicans are going to be counting their spoons.