A Response to the Current Buzz Over Romney’s 2009 Op-ed on Health Care – A Liberal Buzzkill

Liberal websites like Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post have been buzzing recently about a 2009 op-ed written by Romney in USA Today. In the USA Today op-ed, Romney’s detractors allege that “Romney advocated a federal/nationwide mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance.”

This claim has been brought up again and again by Romney’s opponents, and while we here at Mitt Romney Central are certainly grateful for the increased traffic these websites and bloggers have brought to our site, we certainly feel it necessary to set the record straight.

For those interested in reading the op-ed in question, be my guest, but before you do, you may want to read the op-ed Romney wrote for Newsweek magazine just two months prior where Romney explains much more clearly his proposals on health care.

In the Newsweek op-ed, Romney provides a much more detailed explanation about his health care plans as well as what he meant when he said “penalties” would help people purchase health insurance. The Newsweek op-ed, aptly entitled Health Care: The Answer is Unleashing Markets – Not Government, states:

The right answer for health care is to apply more market force, not less. Here’s how:

1. Get everyone insured. Help low-income households retain or purchase private insurance with a tax credit, voucher or coinsurance. Use the tens of billions we now give hospitals for free care to instead help people buy and keep their own private insurance. For the uninsured who can afford insurance but expect to be given free care at the hospital, require them to either pay for their own care or buy insurance; if they do neither, they would forgo the tax credit or lose a deduction. No more “free riders.”

Notice that Romney states quite directly what he means by “using penalties to encourage people to buy health insurance.” What Romney is saying is that those who don’t purchase health insurance lose the opportunity to gain a “tax credit” or “deduction.” In much the same way, homeowners get a tax deduction for the interest paid on their house payments, or how students can get a tax credit on certain student loans. Romney is not advocating a “mandate” of the type Obama used where people are fined for not purchasing insurance, and Romney is certainly not advocating a FEDERAL mandate of any kind if you read the next paragraph of the Newsweek op-ed which states:

6. Center reforms at the state level. Open the door to state plans designed to meet the various needs of their citizens. Before imposing a one-size-fits-all federal program, let the states serve as “the laboratories of democracy.”

How much clearer can Romney be? This op-ed, written just two months before the op-ed in question, shows that Romney wanted health care reform to be at the state level, and for states to enact tax deductions or credits as incentives for people to purchase health insurance. (Just for the record, this is exactly the same plan Ronald Reagan was looking into).

Fact-Checkers Also Support Romney

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Nikki Haley, With Romney & Palin Support, Takes Lead in SC's Race for Governor

Romney & Haley

After an entire year of being the underdog in South Carolina’s gubernatorial race, Nikki Haley has suddenly captured the lead!

She may owe this abrupt jump in polls to some really big endorsements, including initial nods from Mitt Romney, Jenny Sanford, and Erick Erickson of RedState – followed by the more recent endorsement of the rogue herself, Sarah Palin.

More from the Washington Post:

State legislator Nikki Haley seizes the lead in the four-way GOP primary for governor of South Carolina. An automated Rasmussen poll of 912 Republicans has Haley surging from 12 to 30 percent support in a month, leapfrogging the state’s attorney general, lieutenant governor and a congressman, all with more money and institutional support. One reason, as I posted last week — Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R-S.C.) political PAC reactivated recently and spent $400,000 on sunny Haley TV ads.

This is only one Rasmussen poll, and unless a candidate scores 50 percent of the vote he or she goes to a run-off, but what would a Haley win mean? It would be a massive victory for the conservative grass roots, especially RedState, which have promoted her endlessly. And it would be a boon for Mitt Romney, who won Haley’s endorsement in 2008, endorsed her this year, and would obviously be expected to win it in 2012.

Just yesterday, Romney’s PAC sent out this reminder to all Facebook Fans and Twitter followers:

With the South Carolina gubernatorial primary election less than three weeks away, a new Rasmussen poll now shows Nikki Haley leading her closest opponent by 11 points. Nikki Haley represents a new generation of conservative leadership for South Carolina. Please consider supporting her campaign.”

Check out her new TV ad:

Nikki Haley’s Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/NikkiHaleyforGovernor
Nikki Haley’s Twitterhttp://twitter.com/nikkihaley

~Luke G.

Please remove your tinfoil hats now!

Listen to my appearance on Hugh Hewitt last night here.

In the past 12 hours I have had to deal with and debunk yet one more crazy theory that Romney is really behind all this push polling.

After RedState publishes their non-apology, non-recanted post about yesterday’s egregious “push poll” theory, Erick Erickson couldn’t help but delve once more into the fever swamp and pull out a self-admitted “off-the-wall theory”, that only Romney people are the ones complaining about the poll. On top of this Soren Dayton implies that Romney planted the people who reacted negatively to the Mormon poll from his own paid staffers.

You see, in a few press accounts, Marshan Roth and Rose Kramer told their stories of receiving the anti-Mormon polls. But wait! ALERT! Roth and Kramer have been paid by the Romney campaign. It seems they might be staffers! It’s true.

So, I pull out my arsenal of exclusive tools and skills (my forefinger, a phone and a brain) and I look up said Marshan and Rose and find them at home (I woke them both up, sorry ladies).

I conjured up my own theory as I read the Erick’s post. I’m thinking these ladies actually received the bad polls, called their local Romney office (which they knew well) and told their stories. The Romney office made a note of it. When the press comes calling looking for people who got the phone calls the Iowa office point them to Marshan and Rose.

Shocker! I was right. Marshan and Rose, who are both seemingly retired, roused enough to confirm my story.

Please remove your tinfoil hats! There will be no more conspiracy theories!

UPDATE: Lots of complaints now. “Why didn’t they reveal their status with the campaign?” I asked Marshan that last night. Her reply: “What? Why? What do you mean? Why do they want to know that?” Folks, these are non-political septuagenarians. They just were answering a phone call and telling their story to someone in the press. My guess is they went to Ames and they help out at the local office stuffing letters.

Audio: Justin Hart on the Hugh Hewitt Show

Here is the audio from the Hugh Hewitt show. Don’t adjust your browser. I really do speak that fast:

QUICK IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION. In the audio it sounded like I confirmed that Mormons believe the Book of Mormon to be more important than the Bible. The audio actually cut out. I said “this is UNtrue”. Just to be clear :)

So, lets review.

1) There is ZERO evidence linking TargetPoint the anti-Mormon calls
2) TargetPoint VEHEMENTLY denies they are behind the calls
3) As I indicated on Hugh’s show… I asked my source about Gage’s denial. His response: “Yeah, we knew it wasn’t them already.”

Today. Mark Hemingway attempted to apologize and wiggle out of a untenable corner defending a theory that has been refuted on every side you turn to.

Late tonight, and to their credit, Kathryn Lopez from NRO admits: “Mark noted some interesting publicly available connections Monday but there is no real evidence I’ve read that the Romney campaign had anything to do with it.”

Then, RedState issues a non-retraction, failing to apologize to Gage & Company for maligning their integrity. To boot, they add another theory to the pot.

Here’s the quote of the day from RedState: “we should not be afraid to ask a very plausible question based on, if nothing else, real world experience in politics: did a friend of the candidate hit him in a well meaning but misguided effort to help him?”

So, we can dismiss any evidence that’s not there and instead rely on RedState’s “real world experience”. What?

MyManMitt live on the Hugh Hewitt Show Tonight

Quick note. Justin will be speaking with Hugh Hewitt tonight on his radio show about the push poll controversy.

6:20 PM Eastern

You can listen online:
http://krla870.townhall.com/radioschedule/

No big updates today. Except for the fact that NRO and RedState have gone silent… apparently confused about the right thing to do.

I should note this great post by Jim Gearghty at CampaignSpot.

A Good Schadenfreude Spoiled

Ahhh schadenfreude, the fine rhetorical art of kicking someone while they’re down; sticking it to “the man” when “the man” just got stuck; pulling out the gloat as he goes down with the boat.

I really hate to spoil the fun… but there will be no schadenfreude today! (Except for me rhetorically sticking to those who REALLY, REALLY wanted Mitt Romney to push poll his own candidacy?!)

Let’s review some of the rhetoric leading up to the brick wall that Alex Gage & Co. dropped on National Review Online and the notion of a Romney self-push-poll. These are taken from comments on the post at Race42008 entitled: “Let’s Be Clear of the Stakes“:

1:25 PM “It’s either complete absolution or utter destruction now for Mitt Romney’s candidacy.”

1:33 PM “I have the champagne chilling again.”

1:50 PM “ROMNEY-IS-TOAST”

1:51 PM “If on the other hand, it was ordered by an *official* of the Romney campaign, then this indeed may be the week history will assess as the death of the Romney campaign.”

2:02 PM “Time to check temp on the champagne, while Justin searches for comfort food…”

2:05 PM “The Mitt Romney count down clock has begun……..tick tock……”

2:19 PM “Mitt Romney will not matter in a couple of hours anyway so dont worry people”

Sunday night, I received an email from a fellow blogger, generously tipping me off about a story that could potentially knock Romney off his game in a big way. The story, set to publish in a major news rag Monday morning: a top Romney adviser would be implicated as the source of anti-Mormon “push-poll” surveys conducted across Iowa and New Hampshire.

I was stunned. I had followed the story (and even been part of it) for about three days and after interviewing individuals at the alleged firm that conducted the survey. I was convinced that the Romney campaign was not behind it.

I set my plate overnight to devour a whole flock of crow when the story hit.
The article, written by Mark Hemingway and published at NRO, gathered all the details of the story in one narrative and added to the mix, supposed evidence from an online bulletin board linking Alex Gage and his firm TargetPoint Consulting to the data collection firm, Western Wats, implicated as the company that conducted the survey.

As I read over the piece the blood went rushing back into my face. This was nothing! The evidence was scant, the connection pithy and the rest of the article — yawn, I probably wrote half of it myself! The meme that “bulletin-board-post-proves-Romney-push-polled-own-campaign” was weak at best.

But still, Gage & Co. had to answer the charges. Conversations with top bloggers Monday morning indicated that a press release was forthcoming from TargetPoint. I sat on pins and needles the entire day with a constant finger on the refresh button.

Then it came. How do you spell relief?

Just to prove it… here’s a snapshot of the two posts I had ready to go. Even with my “high status” with the campaign (joke) I had no insight into what was going to happen:

My head was on the chopping block in the blogosphere being one of the primary debunkers of the “Mitt-did-it!” conspiracy theories. I braced myself for the worst. If the Romney campaign were truly the source of the push poll… the club fashioned by opponents is too big to imagine.

I’m also a bit perturbed. How did NRO not wait 4 hours to talk to TargetPoint? How does RedState have the gaul to publish what they did requisite to the thin evidence from Hemingway? And don’t get me started on Mark’s refusal to let it go.

To be fair, I think Hemingway got caught up in a a whirlwind of Mormon connections. You see, he thinks the force of his evidence are the coincidences taken as a whole. The Lindorfs, Amanda, the contributors, based in Utah…

Among Mormons there’s an inside joke that the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon become the 4 degrees of Mormonism. To wit: you can find any other Mormon within a breadth of 4 LDS members.

For example, how many ways do you know the candidate you support? How many degrees of separation does it take you to get to John McCain or Rudy? Personally, I know Mitt from when I was an infant (my Mom and Ann were in the same maternity ward when I was born in Boston). I also know him through a long time family friend. And my best friend’s uncle is married to someone who works closely with Romney. Is there some super secret community of Mormons that plans to take over the country by getting Romney elected? No. Its just that Mormons marry other Mormons, marry early in life, and have lots of kids. (Did I mention I’m 35 with 3 kids, and my oldest is 12?)

  • The fact that the firm was in Utah? Moot. Utah perfected the art of the call center from innovators like WordPerfect and the large group of health drinks in the state. (Also, apparently, Utahns have neutral accents which helps in cold calls).
  • The fact that the firm was owned by the Lindorfs? Moot. They divested of their assets years ago.
  • The fact that the firm employs people who donated to Mitt? Moot. A LOT of people have donated to Mitt in Utah. (In fact, I’m surprised that out of 1500 employees only a handful have donated to the campaign).
  • The fact that TippingPoint and other “affiliated” Romney campaigns have used Western Wats? Moot. Its the single largest data collection firm in the world. They handle all sorts of 3rd party work and all sorts of campaigns using them including firms employed by Romney competitors. They handle over 7000 projects every year.
  • The Mormon factor? Do I really have to answer this? The Mormon cabal is not out to submarine the other candidates by conducting a push poll against their chosen one. And he isn’t even their chosen one! I can’t tell you how many Mormon Ron Paul supporters there are…. every other day I get some note berating me for not supporting the “true” constitution guy in the race. (Mormons are big on the Constitution)

The relief I feel is only tempered by the fact that we still don’t know WHO did it. (More on this later).