Mitt Romney will deliver a speech later today that will seek to lay out his 2012 plans for health care reform. But Republican voters will be listening far more closely for Romney to explain what he did in the past regarding health care than what he plans to do in the future. RomneyCare is an albatross that hangs around his neck and up to this point he has done little to seek to remove it. Unless he openly admits today that it was a mistake that hasn’t delivered as promised and that he’s learned from the errors of his ways, Republicans will not allow him to lead the fight against Obamacare as the party’s 2012 presidential candidate. Personally, I’m highly skeptical that Romney will issue the mea culpa necessary to rehabilitate his past.
To understand just how damaging Romneycare is to his 2012 prospects, consider this devastating WSJ editorial called Obama’s Running Mate:
The Romney camp blames all this on a failure of execution, not of design. But by this cause-and-effect standard, Mr. Romney could push someone out of an airplane and blame the ground for killing him. Once government takes on the direct or implicit liability of paying for health care for everyone, the only way to afford it is through raw political control of all medical decisions.
Mr. Romney's refusal to appreciate this, then and now, reveals a troubling failure of political understanding and principle. The raucous national debate over health care isn't about this or that technocratic detail, but about basic differences over the role of government. In the current debate over Medicare, Paul Ryan wants to reduce costs by encouraging private competition while Mr. Obama wants the cost-cutting done by a body of unelected experts like the one emerging in Massachusetts.
Mr. Romney's fundamental error was assuming that such differences could be parsed by his own group of experts, as if government can be run by management consultants. He still seems to believe he somehow squared the views of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT evangelist for ObamaCare, with those of the Heritage Foundation.
In reality, his ostensible liberal allies like the late Ted Kennedy saw an opening to advance their own priorities, and in Mr. Romney they took advantage of a politician who still doesn't seem to understand how government works. It's no accident that RomneyCare's most vociferous defenders now are in the White House and left-wing media and think tanks. They know what happened, even if he doesn't.