Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal writes a fair and generally positive piece about the implications of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts Miracle on Mitt’s presidential aspirations. First, the good:
Mr. Romney got his due on election night. He was the first political figure Mr. Brown thanked for helping “show us the way to victory.” Romney allies had already been busy touting his role. “There’s no one who has done more behind the scenes and in front of the scenes than Mitt,” Republican National Committee member Ron Kaufman told Politico—two days before the election.
By midweek, the political pundits decreed Mr. Romney the other big winner. Some went so far as to credit him with the 41st vote, potentially saving the nation from ObamaCare.
Okay…so far so good, but she continues:
For all the benefits this contest held for the former governor, it also churned up what will prove the biggest obstacle to Romney 2012.
Mr. Brown brazenly turned his Senate bid into a referendum on President Obama’s health plan, and voters rewarded him with a job. Yet ObamaCare’s model was the health reform inflicted on Massachusetts by a certain Republican governor in 2006, otherwise known as RomneyCare.
That precursor shares many elements of Washington’s legislation, from an individual mandate, to employer taxes, to subsidized middle-class insurance. The program has bombed, creating giant costs while realizing minimal benefits. A big reason only 25% of Massachusetts voters strongly approve of ObamaCare is because of this experience.
The state plan has become a millstone for Mr. Romney, yet he has refused to disavow it. Had he campaigned with Mr. Brown he’d have undoubtedly been asked about it, and undoubtedly given an answer as unsatisfying as those to date.
Before I go on, let me assure our readers that I write this as a staunch supporter of Mitt. Over the 2008 election cycle, I wrote hundreds of pro-Mitt blog postings, personally raised thousands of dollars from friends, family, and my own pocketbook, phone banked for hours, served as a surrogate speaker to crowds numbering in the hundreds as well as to the media, and was selected to be a delegate to the national convention from my congressional district.
Despite my deeply held support, I have wondered about the criticism leveled at Mitt regarding “Romneycare.” I would echo Strassel’s sentiment that Mitt’s rebuttals to date have been “unsatisfying.”
I’m confident that Mitt and his team are thinking through the right way to address this issue. In the meanwhile, I am anxious to hear what they will have to say, and would love to hear this addressed sooner than later. The simple explanation is that while Romneycare made progress in certain areas, it is flawed in other ways, and that based on this experience Mitt would do x, y, and z differently were he to do it over again. He should also emphasize the role that the Heritage Foundation played in formulating the plan. And finally, he should highlight those facets of the plan which were pushed through by the reality of Massachusetts’s fundamentally liberal electorate and set those apart from the aspects of the plan which he personally supported.
The Strassel article ends with some advice for Mitt:
This [the criticism of Romneycare] isn’t going away for Mr. Romney either, which is why he’d do better by writing off his own plan as a mistake that Democrats have made worse, and replacing it with a proposal that deregulates and reforms the private market to lower insurance costs (thereby achieving greater coverage). If Mr. Romney hopes to capitalize on this week’s Senate race, he’ll first have to heed its health-care lessons.
I don’t know that I’d call it a mistake (as opposed to an imperfect, but reasonable compromise given its political environment), but I absolutely agree that it’s going to be a drag on his candidacy unless he puts the issue to bed in a convincing manner. If any of you have seen or read anything you find compelling on this topic, please let us know in the comments!