“The Globe’s editorial board rightly argued yesterday that Mitt Romney should defend his record as the governor of Massachusetts — including the state’s landmark health care legislation — as he launches his probable campaign for the GOP nomination in 2012. But the editorial didn’t go far enough: It’s not only Romney who should embrace his record on health care reform. Conservatives should as well. Far from being an albatross around Romney’s neck, the former governor’s health-care legacy proves that he is by far the strongest, most innovative, credible, and conservative GOP hopeful who could take on President Obama.”
“Romney has taken to making three arguments in his defense. First, he criticizes Obamacare for its $669 billion in tax increases, claiming that the Massachusetts plan did not increase taxes. That is technically true — if you consider only the legislation as Romney signed it. However, it is also true that the legislation relied heavily on federal subsidies — more than $300 million — and was still underfunded. Romney’s successor was forced both to cut back on some benefits that the plan originally offered and to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1 per pack ($154 million annually) to help pay for the program. The state also imposed approximately $89 million in fees and assessments on health-care providers and insurers.
“Second, Romney correctly points out that he used his line-item veto to challenge several objectionable provisions of the bill, including its employer mandate, but had his vetoes overridden by the Democratic-controlled legislature. To some degree those vetoes were an exercise in political theater, since the override was always a given. In the end, Romney signed the bill itself, even knowing that the objectionable provisions would be put back in. And he continues to support some of the plan’s worst aspects, notably the individual mandate.
“Finally, Romney criticizes Obamacare as a “one size fits all” federal plan, whereas his plan was implemented in only one state. That’s true. Governor Romney only messed up the health-care system in Massachusetts, while President Obama has messed up health care for the entire country. Of course, as governor, Romney didn’t have the power to impose his model outside of his state. He now says that he opposes any national plan, calling for states to experiment with different approaches as the “laboratories of democracy.” That would certainly be an improvement over Obamacare. On the other hand, he has repeatedly said that he sees the Massachusetts plan as a model for the nation and has urged other states to copy his approach.”
“Fifty years ago, Romney’s Massachusetts roots would not have mattered nearly as much. The Republicans regularly nominated moderates for the presidency — between Hoover and Reagan, only one bona fide conservative, Barry Goldwater, won the party’s nomination. Indeed, in 1960 Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. of Massachusetts, who had been the principal booster of Dwight Eisenhower’s candidacy over the more conservative Robert Taft, ended up as the GOP vice presidential nominee, behind Richard Nixon, who himself was very moderate on domestic policies. But today the conservatives control the Republican party nominating process, meaning that a Republican with a fairly moderate governing record in a blue state like Massachusetts has but one path to the nomination: convince the party that he is more conservative than his record. That’s easier said than done, especially when a program like ‘Romneycare’ is out there…
“So, Romney’s presidential prospects are, in my view, a victim of the polarization of American politics. Republicans from deep blue regions cannot win their party’s nomination, nor can Democrats from deep red regions. Is this a bad thing? For Mitt Romney it is, but the GOP will have plenty of good candidates to pick from. Romney is certainly not indispensable to the Grand Old Party!”
“Former Gov. Paul Cellucci says the race for the GOP presidential nomination will turn on Romney’s brain power, which will trump Palin’s star power.
“‘Does he need to do a reality show? I don’t think so,’ said Cellucci, a longtime Romney supporter. ‘The times are going to make Romney look really good. We’re in a time when jobs aren’t being created — that plays right to his strengths.'”