Guess who fought individual mandates in health care?

With Mitt Romney taking heat over his acquiescence to or enthusiastic endorsement of individual mandates in health care reform (depending on the explanation), the GOP presidential primary in 2012 may hinge on track records fighting ObamaCare.  The energy of the Tea Parties has created a rallying cry of “Repeal and replace!”, thanks in large part to the intrusive federal mandate that fourteen states now plan to challenge in court.  Republicans will feel pressure to nominate someone who has some sort of track record in opposing mandates, especially with the latest Democratic argument that Republicans came up with the idea of the mandate in the first place.

National Journal’s Hotline has found at least one potential candidate with that kind of track record:

MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) defied recommendations made to him by advisers twice in the last 6 years about working to install individual mandates for health insurance coverage — and in doing so may have stockpiled some points he can use to score with the GOP base. …

Pawlenty appointed ex-Sen. David Durenberger (R) to chair the Citizens Forum on Health Care Costs in ’03 largely to advise him on cost containment. Later, Pawlenty empaneled a Health Cabinet. In the report Durenberger and his team issued to Pawlenty on Feb. 23, ’04, he noted that the state’s uninsured rate of 5.4% was among the nation’s lowest, and that state residents understood the need for buy-in.

With that framework, the fifth general recommendation reads: “Assure Universal Participation In The Health Care System.” A few of the points within the recommendation were: “Set a goal of ‘universal participation’ in the health care system, which is broader than just universal access or coverage,” and “Require participation in the health care system by uninsured Minnesotans who can afford to buy health coverage but choose not to.”

Again in a report dated Feb. 1, ’08, another health care group advising Pawlenty — the Health Care Transformation Task Force — suggested that individual mandates be part of the solution.

Anyone think this won’t be in a campaign commercial by mid-2011?

If ObamaCare remains as unpopular in 2011-12 as it is now, especially among independents, this will be a big draw, and a big negative for Romney.  However, many things could change between now and the primaries.  First, a Republican takeover in Congress and the defunding of key parts of the ObamaCare bill might make it less of an issue in the presidential election.  If courts act quickly to toss the mandate out, it will make Pawlenty look prescient but also take the issue off the table.  National security emergencies could arise, or the economy could take another nose-dive, which will make this secondary at best.

Still, some Republicans believe that Pawlenty doesn’t have the necessary toughness to succeed as an executive candidate on the national level.  If nothing else, this shows in practical terms what Minnesotans have seen for years — that Pawlenty knows how to tell people “no,” even Republicans who put pragmatism over principle.