To repurpose an old joke, you know who this article doesn’t benefit? Mitt Romney.
As I see it, there are three principal requirements for the job. The first is experience in management, business, and organization: maybe someone who’s worked as a management consultant, an entrepreneur, and an executive in both the public and private sectors. The second is the ability and capacity to commit: someone who isn’t likely to have any pressing obligations for the next several years, and who has enough cash that he or she doesn’t need a large private-sector salary. Third is relevant experience in implementing a large-scale health-care reform program, ideally one that involved using an individual mandate and the private insurance system to attain near-universal health insurance.
In other words, this sounds like a job for Mitt Romney. He may be the only man in America who meets all three criteria…
Will he have the time? Well, Romney is clearly running for president in 2012. But let’s be honest. Romney looks good on paper, but he is a poor campaigner. His 2008 campaign wasn’t quite as pathetic as Rudy Giuliani’s. But it was disappointing. Over the course of a year, Romney raised a lot of money and matched it with lots of his own. He did win several caucuses, but they were mostly in states with large Mormon populations, or states in the Republican kill zone of New England, or states where his dad used to be governor (Michigan). He came in third in the delegate count.
Can he do better in two years? The emergence of Sarah Palin and continuing shifts in the Republican Party would seem to make it harder for Romney to win in 2012 than in 2008. Romney is an establishment, big-business kind of guy who played a social moderate when he ran Massachusetts. And in the past two years, the Republican Party has become more anti-establishment, more hostile to big business, and more hostile to social moderates.
“Hello, Mitt? Barack Obama. Listen, how would you like to give up your dream of becoming president in order to oversee a completely unmanageable boondoggle that’ll singlehandedly give me the bipartisan cover on health care that I desperately need? Right — the one you just called an ‘unconscionable abuse of power.’ How does $89,000 a year sound? Hello?”
The latest analogy to Mitt’s RomneyCare predicament is Hillary’s 2002 Iraq vote, which she ended up having to kinda sorta defend throughout the primaries even though her base hated her for it. But as Ambinder notes, Iraq didn’t end up deciding the race even though it was the most important issue in early 2007 when the race began. And despite the war baggage and a mismanaged campaign, she still nearly won. Stuff happens and narratives emerge (Hopenchange vs. the Clinton “machine”), and the stronger the narratives become, the less that individual policy decisions matter. That’s not to say RomCare won’t be an albatross around Mitt’s neck — it will — but it won’t be the only factor in the mix, no matter how incensed righties might be about it right now. Electability will matter, as will organizational competence and the Christian vote and foreign-policy unknowns and fundraising fundraising fundraising. Maybe the balance tips against him, maybe not, but it will be a balance. Think of it this way: We’re roughly as close in time right now to the 2008 primaries as we are to the 2012 ones. Think how much has happened since then, and how your own political concerns have changed. Lots of time left.