Romney and Health Care

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jonathan Chait writes:

I’d also be curious to hear from some conservatives about how they see this. In 2008, nearly all of them were fine with Romney’s health care plan. (National Review endorsed Romney for president.) Now, to a man, nearly all of them believe the imposition of a regulate/subsidize/mandate scheme represents one of the worst catastrophes in American history. How do they account for their dramatic change of mind?

I can speak only for myself: Romney was not my first choice, but he was my second. I never liked his Massachusetts health-care plan and said so at the time, but it didn’t render him unacceptable to me. He wasn’t running on a federal version of that plan, which would have rendered him unacceptable in my eyes.

He still isn’t. So what’s changed? Only the political context, which is to say: everything. It seems to me to be pretty important for conservatism that Republicans run on a platform of repeal-and-replace in 2012, and Romney does not seem like a credible carrier of that message. That is especially the case since he is so defensive about how well his Massachusetts reform is supposedly working out.

If Stupak and co. had held firm and the health-care bill had died in the House, things would look very different. The fact that Romney had supported a state-level policy that resembled Obamacare would still have been a mark against him, in my view, but the issue would not have had the importance it now has.

In my view, then, Romney’s health-care record is and should be a much bigger hurdle for him to overcome this time.

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