Romney camp denies that he told blogger he'd keep ObamaCare's mandate

The accusation:

I was one of the first in line to the book signing, and when my turn came I asked Gov. Romney if I could ask him a question. After he told me that this was OK, I posed the following question to him:

“You have stated your intention to spearhead the effort to repeal the ‘worst aspects’ of Obamacare, does this include the repeal of the individual mandate and pre-existing exclusion?”

The Governor’s answer:

“No.”

Gov. Romney went on to explain that he does not wish to repeal these aspects because of the deleterious effect it would have on those with pre-existing conditions in obtaining health insurance.

The response:

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom calls the item “inaccurate” but doesn’t directly address the repeal question:

Mitt Romney has been very clear in all his public statements that he is opposed to a national individual mandate. He believes those decisions should be left to the states.

Fehrnstrom add that the mandate “should be repealed.”

Three possibilities: The blogger, Kavon Nikrad, made the whole thing up; Nikrad told the truth and Team Mitt is lying its butt off to do damage control; or Nikrad misunderstood that when Romney answered “no,” he was responding to the part of the question about pre-existing exclusions, not the mandate. That would make sense politically — the exemption for pre-existing conditions is the most popular part of ObamaCare and the mandate, arguably, is the least popular — but, per Philip Klein, the two really are a package deal. If you’re going to force insurance companies to accept people with costly pre-existing conditions, you need a much deeper revenue pool to pay for it. And the only way to create that short of heavy hikes in premiums is to force healthy uninsured people to start forking over money to the insurers. That’s where the mandate comes in. If you get rid of that and keep the exclusion for pre-existing conditions, then we healthy-ish people will start canceling our insurance policies immediately knowing that we can simply force insurers to sell us a new one if and when we get sick. Once that happens, the revenue pool dries up from losing all the healthy suckers’ premiums and suddenly there’s no cash left to pay the remaining policyholders’ medical expenses. Death spiral mania! Which brings us back to what Romney said to Nikrad. Is he actually endorsing coverage for pre-existing conditions without a mandate? Or does he not want to cover pre-existing conditions? How excited do you think he is to be answering questions like this, incidentally?

Don’t look now but he’s out to a six-point lead over Huckabee and a 10-point lead over Palin among Republicans. Before you laugh and tell me he’s done, check out this bit of absolution from Mr. Tea Party himself (and the latest beneficiary of a Romney endorsement), Marco Rubio:

Rubio has spent much of his campaign focused on health care. Is he a fan of Romney’s Massachusetts health-care plan? “It’s a work in progress,” Rubio says, speaking of the Bay State program. “There are major distinctions between that and what Obama is trying to do in Washington. For one, it didn’t raise any taxes. Number two, it is not adding to our deficit. That is my biggest objection to Obamacare, although there are many others. My number-one objection to Obamacare is that we can’t afford it, even if it was the greatest idea in the world.”

“Florida and Massachusetts are very different places,” Rubio continues. “All I would say to you is that states were designed to be laboratories for creative thoughts and ideas. That’s what the Framers of our great republic intended. They wanted the states to be the places that came up with innovation and competition. And I’ll tell you what, if Massachusetts gets it wrong and Florida gets it right, people will move to Florida, and businesses will move to Florida, and vice versa. There are just major distinctions between what’s happening in Washington and what I hope states will do. Like I said, what I’m not in favor of is what Barack Obama has done, which is to raise taxes and add to the federal deficit in exchange of taking a step toward a single-payer system in America.”

Exit question: Is Marco Rubio a RINO?