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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

“ObamneyCare” and Its Implications

Just in time for tonight’s first field-wide candidate debate, Tim Pawlenty has come up with a cute sound-bite for the contention that ObamaCare–the greatest threat to American liberties since the British gun control initiatives that touched off the Revolutionary War–was essentially pioneered in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. It’s “ObamneyCare,” a term I am certain we will hear during the debate.
Romney will presumably try to deflect attention from attacks on his health care record by talking about his obsessive, maniacal, and above all hyper-competent focus on jobs and the economy. This is, after all, the strategy being urged on him by most of the punditocracy, who appear (viz. this counter-counter-CW piece from Alexander Burns at Politico) to assume that jobs and the economy are clearly distinguishable from health care as topics of public debate.
Since I wrote a full column just last week challenging the idea that the sluggish economy could vault Romney to the nomination, I won’t repeat my whole argument. But I will reiterate a point that the MSM seems to be missing entirely: today’s conservatives do not think of the economy and “ObamneyCare” as in any way separate issues. They believe, or at least so they incessantly say, that the sole cause of our economic problems is “big government,” of which health reform is the most notorious recent example, and the only route to economic revival is to disable “big government,” beginning with health reform. So for Romney to essentially say “I don’t want to talk about big government any more, I want to talk about the economy,” translates to conservative audiences as “I don’t want to talk about the causes of or solutions to our economic problems, I just want to talk about what a great manager I am.”
Maybe some Republican primary voters want a presidential nominee who will do a more competent and/or tight-fisted job of managing the satanic enterprise of the federal government than other candidates, but that’s more generally considered a deeply suspect RINO credential. I suspect Romney’s rivals, including T-Paw, are smart enough to figure that out, and we will see it tonight.

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