Romney Speech a Pivotal Political Moment

Thursday, 12 May 2011 12:47 PM

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faces a pivotal moment in his presidential campaign today when he confronts his biggest political liability, Romneycare.

The Michigan native will give a speech in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center this afternoon that is being billed by staff as providing his answer to Obamacare and an explanation of his own health care plan.

Romney’s plan, enacted in Massachusetts in 2006, guaranteed health insurance for all state residents and President Barack Obama, along with other Democrats, have cited the law as the model for national health care overhaul. Conservatives and tea party members have slammed Romney for the law.

Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said it was “wrong to call any speech this early a ‘make-or-break’ speech.”

“Romney will have many chances to work through his health care reform problem,” he told Newsmax. “But this speech may show how he intends to do it. Are there any aspects of Romneycare he regrets and would change? Apologies aren’t necessary, but for the Republican base that is strong opposed to Obamacare, clear acknowledgment of the fact he has a problem would be a good start.”

Former New York House member Vito Fossella tended to agree. In an interview with Newsmax.TV he said Romney did not have an “insurmountable” problem with Romneycare because the American people respect and accept someone who comes forward and says “this was a mistake, I learn from my mistakes.”

Nonetheless, it will be difficult for Romney to banish the ghosts of legislation past.

In an editorial today, The Wall Street Journal said Romney would be better suited to be Obama’s running mate. It called the Massachusetts’ bill “the prototype for President Obama’s version” and said it had given national health care a “huge political boost.”

“Mr. Romney now claims Obamacare should be repealed, but his failure to explain his own role or admit any errors suggests serious flaws both in his candidacy and as a potential President,” the paper said.

The editorial concludes: “The debate over Obamacare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election. On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.”

Romney, in an op-ed published in USA Today, promised that if elected president he would call on Congress to repeal Obamacare.

“We are blessed with much that is good in American health care,” he wrote. “But we have taken a turn for the worse with Obamacare, with its high taxes and vastly expanded federal control over our lives. I believe the better course is to empower the states to determine their own health care futures.”

He proposed a five-step reform program that would give states the “responsibility, flexibility and resources to care for citizens who are poor, uninsured or chronically ill,” reform the tax code to promote health insurance, focus the federal government on making health care markets work, reform medical liability, and “make health care more like a consumer market and less like a government program.”

“These five steps are positive change,” he concluded. “They will reduce health care costs, improve access and enhance value for the money. My reforms put quality, choice and innovation — not Washington — in charge.”

Of course, none of this may assuage his critics and certainly his opponents in the race for the GOP presidential nomination won’t let him off the hook regardless of what he says in his speech.

“One gets the sense that Romney just intends to ignore his albatross, and try to change the subject to how he would reform Obamacare,” Sabato said. “His opponents will never let him get away with that.”

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