Governor Romney’s biggest vulnerability in prior debates was health care, for obvious reasons. With the release of his budget and entitlement-reform plan, he may have begun to turn the corner on that during tonight’s debate. His answers on health care and entitlements were crisper, in large part because he has now committed himself to a market-based reform of health care, including in the Medicare context, that resonates well with Republican primary voters. That came through in his short comments.
On the other hand, in terms of the repeal of Obamacare and what the GOP would put in its place, the candidates, including Romney, are strong on repeal but less so on what they would do instead. Romney and others suggested that states should be in charge of covering the uninsured with Medicaid block grants, but the problem is substantially larger than what bankrupt states can handle within the Medicaid context. To win the health-care fight, the GOP candidate, whoever that turns out to be, is going to need to have a coherent vision for replacing Obamacare that addresses the problems that exist in American health care, including stabilizing insurance-coverage levels, without a federal takeover. So they all, including Romney, have some more work to do.