CHRIS PUMMER: Mitt Romney has been taking plenty of heat recently. With the passage of health care reform there’s already been speculation that “Obamacare” is similar enough to the “Romneycare” package the Mitt Man passed while governing Massachusetts to sink his chances at the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.
I say if Romney suffers a fatal blow to his aspirations for the nation’s top office, it won’t be because of latent anger over health care reform.
For starters, I think it’s highly unlikely health care reform is the dominant issue for Republican primary voters two years from now. Despite the explosive rage we’ve witnessed, and the rallying cries for repeal, even many of the GOP’s conservative stalwarts are describing killing the bill retroactively unrealistic. It’s here to stay, especially if people like the first wave of benefits that they’ll see before they head to the polls in 2012.
The fact is that if the Republicans are going to be in a strong position to take over the White House, it will be because the economy is still struggling through a long, slow recover. GOP voters, above anything else, will want to select a candidate capable of winning. Romney still has more credibility than any other prominent candidate when it comes to economics.
So if Romneycare does become an issue in the primary, Mitt can do what he’s been doing: explain how his plan was different; and explain why it made sense for him to do it as a governor in charge of a state government, and why he thinks it makes less sense for the federal government to take on the task.
That’s going to sound a lot more level-headed and reasonable than any gibberish about death panels.
HOWARD MEGDAL: It isn’t like Mitt Romney needed another strike against him going into 2012. But the passage of Health Care Reform certainly provides one.
Chris is right: Romney can try and explain the difference between his plan and Obama’s plan all he wants. It is his only card left to play.
But it is way too easy to put Romney’s support for a remarkably similar plan into a 30-second ad. And in a GOP primary, this kind of endorsement from Barack Obama won’t help matters much.
Look, Romney couldn’t close the deal in 2008 with the major conservative alternative being John McCain, reviled by the right, and Mike Huckabee, chronically incapable of raising the necessary funds. So whether it turns out to be Sarah Palin or John Thune, the non-Romney is far likelier to be arousing passions among the voters most likely to vote in a GOP primary.
And the party is angrier than it was in 2008. The GOP is set for a year not dissimilar to what it faced in 1964, or what the Democrats faced in 1972. Say what you will about Mitt Romney’s ability to morph from Massachusetts liberal to somewhat conservative in 2008 to tea partier with better hair in 2010, but his chances of being the 2012 equivalent of Barry Goldwater or George McGovern are pretty slim.