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ObamaCare vs. Mitt Romney

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The passage of Obamacare is going to make life harder for Mitt Romney in 2012. Which makes the White House pretty happy. Romney isn't the world's most skilled politician, but he's one of the more credible challengers Republicans can muster. If the passage of health-care reform wounds his candidacy without killing it off entirely, that's a big win for the Obama administration: It means Romney takes up some, but not enough, of the sensible Republican vote, making it even likelier that someone totally unelectable wins the nomination.

Obama is certainly doing everything he can to make that happen. "This is similar to the bill that Mitt Romney, the Republican governor and now presidential candidate, passed in Massachusetts," he said on the Today Show. Romney probably didn't appreciate the publicity.

The White House thinks that 2012 is where they can deal a serious blow to the Fox Newsification of the Republican Party. But that only works if someone from the Fox News wings of the party wins the nomination (and, of course, if Obama really trounces that person). If health-care reform makes it a bit less likely that Romney's candidacy succeeds, then it'll have served an unexpected strategic purpose.

On the other hand: Marc Ambinder thinks pundits are overstating the problems ObamaCare poses for Romney.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herber.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 31, 2010; 8:08 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

Romney has raised some objections to Obamacare that seem hypocritical and could come back to haunt him, but there are plenty of ways to spin his opposition to Obamacare in an election cycle. "Look," he says. "My state came up with this plan. It's not perfect. It could be better. Maybe another state will come up with something better. Then we could learn from that. But with the federal government taking over healthcare, there's very little room for the states to innovate. There's plenty of room for them to have to cut services to pay for the unfunded mandates of Obamacare, but very little room to innovate."

It's not an entirely objective strategy, but it could serve the purpose. When asked about strident criticism of Obamacare, he could point to smaller elements that are different from his own plan, and focus on those. He could use the "I'd do it smarter" argument, the classic trope from politicians who don't want to attack a potentially popular program, yet don't want to concede that the opposition party has the solution.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 31, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Kevin, too many words to win the base over. It's also nuanced. The base responds to single syllables.

Posted by: JkR- | March 31, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

This shifting ground strategy Obama is using against Romney and the GOP cuts both ways. Democrats get a supposedly Democratic President who . . . keeps Gitmo open, abandons the public option, and wants to dramatically increase domestic offshore oil drilling.

Obama keeps negotiating against himself. Republicans made it painfully clear they weren't going to offer a single health care vote, and yet at the end of the day Obama managed to pass, in his words, something "similar to the bill that Mitt Romney" passed. Obama may be making it harder for a rational Republican to distinguish himself, but Obama's also not distinguishing himself very much from a rational Republican. Remind me again why I shouldn't give one of those guys a shot?

Posted by: simpleton1 | March 31, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

---If the passage of health-care reform wounds his candidacy without killing it off entirely, that's a big win for the Obama administration: It means Romney takes up some, but not enough, of the sensible Republican vote, making it even likelier that someone totally unelectable wins the nomination.---

And that's exactly why propagandists like Klein will keep Romney's name (and Palin's) in their columns. By promoting the frauds and buffoons in the opposition camp, they weaken the opposition. I suppose that's "politics", but it's one more form of dishonesty, coming from the same dishonest people.

Posted by: msoja | March 31, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Simpleton, the point is to make the 2012 election about pitting the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party against President Obama's Big Tent approach. Granted, folks on the Left aren't going to be super excited about some of the things Obama's doing, Hell, I'm not, but if doing what he's doing helps ensure that he faces a Palin-type nominee then it probably both A) helps him win the election by a larger margin, and B) helps him make a political point about the Tea Party folks.

Kevin, I've always thought that Romney would be the candidate that few Republicans loved, but that they swallowed because he seemed the most electable of the bunch. Sort of the Republican John Kerry. He was always going to have a hard time explaining his shifting positions on abortion, etc., his election in a liberal state and passage of liberal programs. And then, of course, there's his Mormanism. Still, I figured they'd get over it if they thought he could beat Obama. This, combined with the last year's Tea Party hysteria has me thinking we might actually see a Palin-type of nominee, which would make me very happy.

And if the Left isn't motivated to get to the polls by Obama's achievements, they'll definitely be motivated by fears of a Palin Presidency.

Posted by: MosBen | March 31, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

You don't have to compare - you can use Mittens own words. Just keep playing his statement on mandates over and over and over again.

Kind of sad that he feels like the best way to get nominated is to kiss up to the Dobsons and Teabaggers and every wingnut in between rather than lay out a real economic path forward. If he ran a campaign as the successful moderate republican governor of one of the best off states in the union he might win. But he can't. I guess that's good for us democrats. But is it?

Posted by: luko | March 31, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

who are the credible leaders in the republican party?
romney has always appeared weak.
and now, especially, compared to the outspoken bullies who seem to make up the leadership of the republican party.
little looked more ridiculous, than watching sarah palin campaigning for the effete and desperate john mccain.
they have to keep dragging mitt romney back out, like old clothes, because they have no new talent or consolidating, brilliant, young voices in their party.
and sarah palin is going to lead her followers over the edge soon.

people will be favorable to the health reform law as time goes on.
obama will win republican favor for his drilling plan.
there will be more jobs.
i think that president obama will be very well positioned against the republicans, in this coming election.
the tea party movement is becoming too violent. christian militias, and people showing up with guns in public places, scare people.
the republican party is in shambles.
they have little conscience, and no compass for the 21st century.

Posted by: jkaren | March 31, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

It's not just Romney that was for mandatory healthcare. I know you're talking about the 2012 presidency - but these right-wingers got some nerve playing this game when so many of them were for forced healthcare. Even McCain & Gingrich. Most of the people that are now talking against it. You know how they are with their corporate pals - they didn't want any of the additional costs going to them so they decided to go with the forced option. By the way (simpleton1)you're right, it works both ways. Not only do the Repubs have Obama going back on his word a few times, he's really making his base mad as hell - including me. How did we go from Green jobs to Nuclear power plants all over the country? You start building Nuclear power plants and new technology will take a back seat. And It takes a long time for Nuclear plants to break even.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | March 31, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

"Obama may be making it harder for a rational Republican to distinguish himself, but Obama's also not distinguishing himself very much from a rational Republican. Remind me again why I shouldn't give one of those guys a shot?"
Posted by: simpleton1


if you can look at the totality of the republican party today, and need to be reminded why you shouldnt "give them a shot," in the next election, then, with all due respect, i think that the pseudonymn that you chose, fits you.

Posted by: jkaren | March 31, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I can't wait. The pragmatic, off-shore drillin' president against just another Massachusetts Liberal.

Posted by: whereareweandwhatarewedoinginthishandbasket | March 31, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Please, do you have to call it Obamacare?? That's the term I saw first on a horrible poster held by a tea-bag protester.

Posted by: Vaughan1 | March 31, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

@JkR: "Kevin, too many words to win the base over. It's also nuanced. The base responds to single syllables."

Well, there ya go. Romney's just out of luck, then.

" . . . single syllables." Sheesh. Do you guys ever hurt yourselves, patting yourselves on the back? Or strain your eyes admiring your aristocratic features in the mirror?

I kid, I kid. I'm a kidder. Hugs and kisses.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 31, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Talk about chutzpah! Whats happened to Obama in the last two weeks? This is awesome!

He goes on the Today show, all but says "Romneycare" is "Obamacare", then as if that doesnt rub Romney's nose in it enough, refers to him as a presidential candidate!

I love every bit of it.

Note to non-Romney GOP candidate strategists: get the video clip of this from the Today show and prepare the devastating 20-second clips for the primaries!!

Posted by: zeppelin003 | March 31, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren: "if you can look at the totality of the republican party today, and need to be reminded why you shouldnt "give them a shot," in the next election, then, with all due respect, i think that the pseudonymn that you chose, fits you"

Hmmm. Do I vote for the guys who call their opponents (and their supporters) idiots, or do I vote for the guys who call their opponents (and their supporters) socialists. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions. Eeny, meeney, miney, moe . . .

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 31, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

The Evangelical base stays home. The Middle of the Roaders recoil from the flip-flops. The Democrats win. No one trusts Republicans to govern. They Hate Government!

Posted by: thebobbob | March 31, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Wait, I thought we all believed that by 2012 everyone will realize that health care reform wasn't the demonic-fascist-socialist law Fox news has been predicting? In that case, Mitt Romney will be able to run on it. And then he'll win the presidency.

But if health care's popularity doesn't increase, any Republican would win the presidency.

Explain again why I should be happy about this?

Posted by: clifton_ealy | March 31, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm. Do I vote for the guys who call their opponents (and their supporters) idiots, or do I vote for the guys who call their opponents (and their supporters) socialists. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions. Eeny, meeney, miney, moe . . .

do you vote on the basis of how people are called?

i look at barack obama, joe biden, nancy pelosi, jay rockefeller, ron wyden, john dingell....to name a few....and i see a party that i can support. people who have the best interests of the country at heart.
in an imperfect world, i think the president is doing the best that he can too radical for some, too conservative for others....he has to walk a difficult line.
i am very proud to be a democrat at this time in history.
i hope you can feel that way too, for whomever you choose to support and/or campaign for.

Posted by: jkaren | March 31, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"if you can look at the totality of the republican party today, and need to be reminded why you shouldnt "give them a shot," in the next election, then, with all due respect, i think that the pseudonymn that you chose, fits you.

Posted by: jkaren | March 31, 2010 9:34 AM"

Don't embarrass yourself by resorting to childish name-calling. You're completely missing the point.

I'm a Democrat. I voted for Obama and supported him, both financially and in sweat equity, in 2008. But now I'm seeing him do something his Republican predecessor couldn't -- open up the East Coast to offshore oil drilling. And he's been cutting deals on pretty much every issue since he got elected. What are his sacred cows?

The problem with this approach isn't that it suddenly makes Sarah Palin look normal. And I completely understand how it actually does the opposite, and marginalizes the tea party wing even further. But to the vast middle of the electorate, the millions of Americans who (staggeringly) voted for W in 2004, this approach is a double-edged sword. Why vote for Obama when you can get a much more comfortable version in Romney or Pawlenty or whoever else might try get on board? National elections are won on the margins, and if Obama's big selling point is "I do pretty much what a mainstream Republican would do" then alot of people might go that route.

Ask Scott Brown whether that's a likely outcome.

Posted by: simpleton1 | March 31, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Remind me again why I shouldn't give one of those guys a shot?

Posted by: simpleton1


how could any thinking person, who is seriously concerned about the well-being and security of our children, cast a vote that would in any way, give power to a party that represents the teaparty constituency, or to any political leader that would be BEHOLDEN to them?
why would you vote for a president who depends on their support, and is afraid to intimidate the likes of palin, limbaugh, glenn beck......who are too scared to speak out against them because they lack the courage, and are afraid of losing their support?

when sarah palin and rush limbaugh are calling your shots, and like john mccain, you are so craven that you need to have her rallying your troops, it is a frighteningly sorry day for the republican party.
is there one brave soul in the republican party that can speak out against the horrors of the teaparty movement?
until that day, until there is a republican who can renounce them and their bigotry.....their lack of intelligence, their brandishing of weapons and frightening bigotry....the republican party is without conscience. if they are in power, we could have a true civil war again in this country.
what thinking person sees a choice here?

Posted by: jkaren | March 31, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

@MosBen: "This, combined with the last year's Tea Party hysteria has me thinking we might actually see a Palin-type of nominee, which would make me very happy."

This is entirely possible, but it's unlikely that even if we get a different kind of nominee that Obama will lose. The power of incumbency is very strong. Clinton oversaw a huge loss in the house and senate in 1994, and came back to win the 1996 election handily.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 31, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

LOL I'm looking forward to some of Mittens' 2012 opponents holding up a chart showing the similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare.

Romneycare. LOL

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | March 31, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren:

"is there one brave soul in the republican party that can speak out against the horrors of the teaparty movement"

Hyperbole. Check.

"why would you vote for a president who depends on their support, and is afraid to intimidate the likes of palin, limbaugh, glenn beck......who are too scared to speak out against them because they lack the courage, and are afraid of losing their support?"

Belief they can see the future if the opposition wins, and it's a very grim, desolate future. Check.

"if they are in power, we could have a true civil war again in this country."

Threat of (3rd party) violence. Check.

"what thinking person sees a choice here?"

Insult. Check.

And what's the difference between you and your average tea party attendee, other than who you think the bad guys are?

I'm sure I'm missing something, but I don't see how blurring the line as far as rhetorical tactics helps you make your argument.

Sorry for my confusion.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 31, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

@simpleton: If the Republican candidate is on the whole similar to the Democratic candidate, the incumbent wins. History has demonstrated that, time and time again.

Unless the Republicans run a Ronald Reagan (and I don't see that happening), there's little chance of beating Obama. The Republicans actually have a much better chance of getting control of both houses than they have of winning the presidency.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 31, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

If Mittens really was smart, he'd let some Palin-type idiot serve as the sacrificial lamb in 2012 a la Goldwater, and save his powder for the open election in 2016. But he's a power-made clown, and he won't wait.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | March 31, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

As long as lightweight loonies like Sarah Palin wield any influence among the GOP base, President Obama has nothing to worry about in terms of his re-election prospects.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | March 31, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"The power of incumbency is very strong"

Kevin, you are, of course, completely right. Through all of the triumphalist statements that Obama would be a one-term president, I've never really woried much. Incumbency truly is a very powerful factor in Obama's favor, and I don't really see any possible Republican nominees with enough juice to beat him.

What I'm more interested in is A) Obama being reelected with a larger majority than the first time, which hopefully leads to some more action on important issues, and B) Obama badly beating a nominee from the craziest wing of the Republican party.

I wish I lived in a world where the choice was between reasonable liberals and reasonble conservatives. I really don't think Romney would be inclined to ruin the country in the way a Palin or W. Bush are likely to. He'd probably make decisions that would piss me off, but I don't think I'd be afraid that he'd dismantle the Constitution or something.

But unfortunately we don't live in that world. For a Republican to win the nomination they're going to have to play to their party's worst, most crazy wing. We need an electoral victory with a reasonable candidate completely killing the Tea Party candidate so that they can be marginalized, at least for a while.

Posted by: MosBen | March 31, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Straight talk about the problems Massachussetts would reveal it to be a disaster, and honest and thorough review of the impact of Obamacare would produce the same analysis. No one thinks it worked in Massachussetts nor should they assume that an uglier and dumber federal bill will produce better results.

No one could have dreamed we would have elected a neophyte national politician like Obama 5 years ago..........or 3 years ago for that matter. Romney can overcome the Massachusseetts mistake. Didn't Obama overcome all his problems in the election? Unfortunately, all his problems and the legitimate criticism of the candidate have not gone away. He is a disaster, and so is anyone dumb enough to line up with him.

Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | March 31, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Center-right independents and Republicans are unlikely to be persuaded by the Klein/Obama challenge to Romney. I suspect neither Klein nor Obama share a commitment to Federalism that is instinctively felt among most voters. Whatever advantages or disadvantages his state-based plan might offer within Massachusetts, it was an act of plenary authority by a state government, and not one by the Federal government that many voters believe exceeds the Federal powers set out in Art. I, Sect. 8 of the Constitution. Many people who oppose ObamaCare are open to popular experimentation with approaches to health insurance reform among the democratic laboratories in the states. The issue is less about reform per se than about Federalism, which tremendously important among moderates and conservatives.

As for me, on its merits, RomneyCare (if that's what it is) in Massachusetts isn't very impressive -- but then I'm not a one issue voter. I suspect the great majority of center-right independents, who are the key swing voters in future elections, some of whom voted for Obama and are now disappointed, think as I do on this score.

Posted by: rboltuck | March 31, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I can't resist . . .

And Marc Ambinder also thinks this is good news for John McCain!!!

Posted by: Rick00 | March 31, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

@jkaren: "i look at barack obama, joe biden, nancy pelosi, jay rockefeller, ron wyden, john dingell....to name a few....and i see...people who have the best interests of the country at heart."

Kevin_Willis, you missed this one in your checklist. Thinking your party only wants to do what is best for the country while the other party is evil. Check.

Posted by: ab13 | March 31, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Why are so many people completely incapable of understanding that there is absolutely no hypocrisy in supporting a program at the state level but opposing it at the federal level?

Posted by: ab13 | March 31, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

As I commented on this on Jonathan Chait's blog:

But don't forget the power and value of learning and exposing.

A candidate more truthful, clear, and representative about what the Republican party is really like today would really inform the public about the great dangers of voting for this extremist party.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 31, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I am a progressive, so last year I resisted, as long as I could, from admitting what a serious mistake--- that I as DEM had made, supporting an unknown symbolic candidate for President;

----- but it is obvious now, after a year of Pres Obama's corporatist governing style combined with Pres Obama's penchant for dissembling in speeches:

Obama is a smart mouth---

Romney is a smart man.

Posted by: johnowl | March 31, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"Thinking your party only wants to do what is best for the country while the other party is evil. Check."


until there is a republican who is not terrifiedd and craven, and is willing to denounce palin, limbaugh, bachmann and beck.....and their ability to hijack the republican party, i would say they dont have the best interests of the country at heart.
they appear to be shaking in their boots to speak out with conscience and authority, and reclaim normalcy and decency in the republican party.
is there one who is willing to stand up to them and publicly denounce them, or are they all hoping that palin will campaign for them, no matter how violent, exploitative and cruel her rhetoric is?
it was really pitiful to see mccain there, watching her campaign for him. what becomes of people.......is sometimes really sad to see. the last vestiges of their dignity gone.
which leader in the republican party presently captures your admiration for their brilliance, integrity and leadership?????

Posted by: jkaren | March 31, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

If someone is disingenuous then it's Obama. If he was open to incorporating Republican ideas then why did he not ask for advice from one person who had implemented such a plan. The fact is that he was a passionate advocate of the public option and failed in imposing it. He wants to score political points by saying that he always wanted a plan that was middle of the road. I agree that he's a better 'politician' than Romney.

I do not favor either Obama or Romney. But as this debate unfurls, I sense that it's taking the form where we are crucifying a Henry Ford who came up with a revolutionary but imperfect model T and glorifying a low-cost Asian copycat.

Romney was a public executive innovator who came up with non-price controlled exchange system with costs staying close to within a fraction of the state budget as projected.

The big question is why as Americans we do not pay attention to the fact that the guy who was creative and innovative is getting lambasted while the 'politician' impersonator Obama sits in the president's chair and is leading the country.

If the best that Obama can do is to copy Romney, I wonder who is more qulfied to be president!

Posted by: Huch | March 31, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Huch wrote "The big question is why as Americans we do not pay attention to the fact that the guy who was creative and innovative is getting lambasted while the 'politician' impersonator Obama sits in the president's chair and is leading the country. If the best that Obama can do is to copy Romney, I wonder who is more qualified to be president!"

The answer is pretty clear, Obama has the leadership qualities that Romney lacks. Face it, the guy gets the job done. Besides
Romney is in the wrong party, he is too decent a man to stay in the party of the Limbaugh's and the Palin's. Lincoln and Eisenhower must be turning in their graves these days


Posted by: Franktheliberal | March 31, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

It's so ironic. If the Republicans had been smart enough to nominate Mitt Romney in '08, he'd probably be sleeping inn the executive mansion at this very moment. But they're not smart. The party of Lincoln has been hijacked by an army of half-wits. That is the reason why that party is in the process of imploding - and I am having so much fun watching that implosion. I really am!

NOTE TO THE GOP:

Health Care is hear to stay. Get over it.

www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Tom Degan

Posted by: tomdeganfrontiernetnet | April 1, 2010 4:36 AM | Report abuse

Here Here...for the first time in history...a president will run unopposed.

Too bad. Ya just don't get it. But if you folks could vote Bush back into office you would be relieved. You ENJOYED being deceived by him and the high gas prices and the slaughter of the innocents looking for WMD. It is a new day, and some of you folks just can't get out of bed to face the music.

"Oh no, a what?...is president!" Who"

Get a life America. And this is no April fool's joke.

Posted by: gigger | April 1, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Here Here...for the first time in history...a president will run unopposed.

Too bad. Ya just don't get it. But if you folks could vote Bush back into office you would be relieved. You ENJOYED being deceived by him and the high gas prices and the slaughter of the innocents looking for WMD. It is a new day, and some of you folks just can't get out of bed to face the music.

"Oh no, a what?...is president!" Who?"

Get a life America. And this is no April fool's joke. If Johnny had won we'd still be in a recession and probably at war with Iran.

Posted by: gigger | April 1, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

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