David Harsanyi explains that It's me, not you, Mitt in the Denver Post:
It is possible to see--if one dares to dream--some authentic fiscal conservative emerging to take a shot at the presidency in 2012. While Romney has the required drive, intellect and temperament, he is wrong on the fundamental ideological question of this time: health care.
In fact, Romney's illogical and unconvincing defense of his own health care plan is not only a deal breaker, it allows folks like White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to tell reporters that Obamacare is similar to a plan enacted (and still defended) by a leading Republican contender in 2012. And Gibbs is right.
Let's concede momentarily that the GOP will win back enough seats in 2010 to make it thornier for Democrats to push through any other comprehensive assaults on the economy. Let's concede also then that health care reform becomes the defining legislative accomplishment of Barack Obama's first term.
By 2012, many of the hidden costs of this reform will have surfaced, while the bulk of the alleged benefits still will not have kicked in. Barring some earth-shattering geopolitical event, candidate Romney will be impelled to spend a noteworthy chunk of his time pointing out differences and/or defending comparisons between the two plans--effectively eliminating the issue that holds potentially the greatest impact for Republicans.
As Harsanyi notes, and as I mentioned last week, so far Romney's attempts to explain why RomneyCare was not a precursor to and a watered down version of Obamacare have failed miserably. Simply calling it a "conservative alternative" does not make it so. Unless and until Romney is ready to swallow hard and issue a heartfelt mea culpa about the error of the RomneyCare ways, he has no chance to be the GOP standard bearer in 2012.