Analysis: Mass. Dems Tweak Romney On Healthcare, But Will It Backfire?

By Adam Reilly

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Apr. 13, 2011

If former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney runs for president in 2012 — and right now, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t — his biggest weakness will undoubtedly be the state health care reform law he signed five years ago today. Like the federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama, the Massachusetts law mandates that individuals buy insurance — and that’s a provision that rankles many Republican primary voters. Witness a recent Public Policy Polling survey that found that a whopping 61 percent of GOP primary voters won’t back a candidate who supported an individual mandate at the state level.

Naturally, Massachusetts Democrats are doing everything they can to tie the healthcare albatross around Romney’s neck. Which is why, on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Democratic Party celebrated the fifth anniversary of the state’s landmark healthcare reform law with a vanilla-frosted cake that had a message — written in red icing — for the former governor. “Massachusetts healthcare a model for the nation,” it read. “Thank you Mitt!”
 
Democratic Party Chair John Walsh acknowledges — grudgingly — that the praise for Romney isn’t entirely sincere. “There is obviously a little bit of tongue in cheek here,” Walsh said. “Whenever you think someone is successful and you recognize that congratulating them embarrasses them — it’s curious at the least.
 
“I don’t know whether this is the issue that will sink Mitt Romney,” Walsh added. “As the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and as someone who lived in Massachusetts when he was governor, I’ll be looking for whatever that issue is.
 
Along with the cake, state Democrats also unveiled a video, titled “Thanks, Mitt,”  of comments Romney has made about the Massachusetts healthcare law since its passage. For example: “When I set out to find a way to get everybody health insurance, I couldn’t have cared less and I don’t care less about how it works politically. In my view, it’s the right thing to do.” Or, even better: “Ted Kennedy supporting a bill which I authored — that’s going to actually be a cure to global warming. Because Hell has frozen over.”

John Walsh says he hopes the video goes viral – but he should ask himself: might that actually help Romney? After all, Romney’s strategy for neutralizing his healthcare liability is simple: he’s going to say, again and again, that President Barack Obama erred by imposing a one-size-fits-all health care solution on fifty states. And the video actually lends credence to this critique: At no point does Romney actually say that the Massachusetts law should serve as a model for sweeping federal reform.
 
Of course, that may not be enough to satisfy GOP diehards who think any mandate is a bad mandate. But to others, it could confirm that – on this issue, at least — our former governor has actually been pretty consistent. 



MASS HEALTH CARE BILL TURNS FIVE

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Adam Reilly Adam Reilly
Adam Reilly is a political reporter and associate producer for WGBH's Greater Boston.

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