Here’s something to tuck away in your files on both health care reform and 2012 presidential aspirant Mitt Romney, from Tim Noah at Slate (via Jon Chait). Looking at Romney’s new pre-campaign book, Noah observes:
Romney’s discussion of health reform is, from a partisan perspective, comically off-message. (How could he know what today’s GOP message would be? He probably finished writing the book months ago.) Remove a little anti-Obama boilerplate and Romney’s views become indistinguishable from the president’s. They even rely on the same MIT economist! At the Massachusetts bill’s signing ceremony, Romney relates in his book, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., quipped, “When Mitt Romney and Ted Kennedy are celebrating the same piece of legislation, it means only one thing: One of us didn’t read it.”
Noah goes on to mix up some Obama and Romney quotes on health care reform, and challenges the reader to say which is which. Can’t be done.
Back in January, I predicted that Romney’s sponsorship of health care reform in Massachusetts might turn out to be a disabling handicap in a 2012 presidential race, given the shrillnesss of conservative rhetoric about features in Obama’s proposal that are also in Romney’s–most notably, the individual mandate.
Something happened since then, of course, which has been of great value to Romney in protecting his highly vulnerable flank on health reform: Scott Brown, another supporter of RomneyCare in Massachusetts, became the maximum national GOP hero and set off to Washington to try to wreck Obama’s plans. That meant that not one, but two major Republican pols would be promoting ludicrous distinctions between RomneyCare and ObamaCare as though they were actually vast and principled.
But I can’t see this illogical brush-off as working forever. If the Mittster does crank up another presidential campaign, fresh media attention will be devoted to his record and “philosophy” on health care. And more importantly, Romney’s rivals in a presidential race won’t for a moment give him a mulligan on the issue the GOP has defined as all-important. Mitt’s “socialism” in Massachusetts will eventually re-emerge as a big, big problem for him, and arguments that it was just state-level “socialism” won’t quite cut it in a Republican Party that’s moved well to the Right since the last time he ran for president. Before it’s over, they’ll make it sound like he’s the reincarnation of Nelson Rockefeller, money and all.