Democrats in Massachusetts and Washington DC must believe Mitt Romney could do some real damage to Barack Obama in a general election.  They have repeatedly and publicly tied him to the health-care plan in the Bay State as a way to push conservatives away from Romney, gaudily “thanking” the former governor for the troubled plan and its individual mandate.  Oddly enough, the Boston Globe attempts to set the record straight by informing conservatives that the governor had little choice in the matter himself:

Still, conservatives might be more favorably disposed if they understood the part Romney played in warding off various schemes feared by business. After an Urban Institute study recommended an individual mandate, Romney made that the core of his plan. That was a way of sidestepping the approach many Democrats favored: a payroll tax of 5 to 7 percent on businesses that did not offer health coverage. That idea, the subject of a planned ballot question, became the preferred approach of then-House speaker Sal DiMasi. Businesses worried, and with good reason, about the costs such a plan would impose.

The compromise that finally broke the long stalemate was based on an individual mandate, but called for companies without coverage to pay $295 per worker per year. That was essentially the Romney plan, but with enough of a business contribution to let DiMasi save face. In a move that angered DiMasi, Romney signed the bill, but vetoed the business levy. The Legislature overrode his veto, reimposing the fee.

DiMasi, however, remained adamant about putting much of the responsibility on business, something both Romney and then-Senate president Robert Travaglini opposed. At one point, DiMasi talked of forcing firms to pay $800 to $1,000 per uncovered employee.

Romney himself has tried to make the same explanation — that the legislature was going to pass a comprehensive plan, and that he acted to make it as business-friendly as possible. The problem Romney faced was his full-throated use of the MassCare plan to support his candidacy in 2008. He positioned himself as someone who had provided a solution to the health-care issue through innovation at the state level, and would be one Republican with the credibility to innovate at the federal level and beat Democrats looking for a second round of HillaryCare.  To some extent, this is a problem he brought on himself, even if the slam against him for the individual mandate is misplaced, as the Globe argues.

His campaign got better news this weekend.  Their major donor to the 2008 campaign has decided to forgive the loans made to, er, himself:

Mitt Romney is starting his 2012 presidential campaign by forgiving the remaining debt his 2008 presidential campaign owed him for the millions of dollars in personal checks he wrote to it.

The former Massachusetts governor last month wrote off $250,000 in loans to his campaign committee, according to a report the committee filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

This is actually more significant than it sounds — but not to Romney’s pocketbook.  In essence, he’s written off the last of the $45 million he spent out of his own pocket.  Romney’s wealth far exceeds these figures, of course, but it’s not clear whether Romney will spend another $45 million out of his own wallet again for the nomination.  Even for a billionaire, $45 million is a lot to spend to come up empty.

Since Romney no longer needs to raise money for his old debt, he’s clear to start raising funds for a new campaign.  His exploratory phase will likely be short, and the fundraising will be intense.