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Posted at 8:10 AM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Romney's tea party-friendly defense on health care

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza

Mitt Romney made some of his most significant statements yet this weekend about the health care bill he signed as governor of Massachusetts, offering a preview of his defense for what many are expecting to be a potent line of attack for Romney's opponents.

And in doing so, Romney appears be trying a tea party-ish angle.

Romney, delivering a speech to the Carroll County Lincoln Day Dinner in the all-important primary state of New Hampshire on Saturday, acknowledged there are things he would have done differently given a second chance - a half-mea culpa for a program that has often been compared to President Obama's health care bill. (Even Obama has compared the two.)

His next point may have been the most interesting, though. Romney emphasized that his state faced its own set of issues and sought to separate a state's effort from a federal one.

"Our approach was a state plan intended to address problems that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts,"Romney said. "What we did there as Republicans and Democrats was what the Constitution intended for states to do; we were one of the laboratories of democracy."

The subtle implication, of course, is that he wouldn't have tried for the United States what he attempted in Massachusetts. And that's how he separates himself from Obama.

But perhaps more interesting are Romney's not-so-subtle federalist overtones. Federalism - the belief that states should lead the way in effecting policy - is a very popular ideal in the tea party movement

What's not so popular in the tea party movement, of course, is Obama's health care bill.

Romney went on to lay into that bill, calling it "ObamaCare" (some are calling Romney's bill "RomneyCare") and vowing to repeal it.

And yet again, Romney returned to federalism.

"One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover," he said. "ObamaCare is bad law constitutionally, bad policy, and it is bad for America's families."

The question for the tea party - and other conservatives - is whether they will accept this line of argument. Does it make it OK to institute an individual health insurance mandate, as long as you're doing it at the state level and not the federal one?

The answer, based on how Romney defended himself Saturday, will be a key one for candidate Romney.

Heather Wilson to announce: GOP former congresswoman Heather Wilson is set to announce today that she is running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

Wilson would be a strong candidate if she can win a primary. But she failed to win the GOP nomination for New Mexico's other Senate seat in 2008. And already, some conservatives are rallying against the moderate Republican.

Democrats, perhaps recognizing what a force Wilson could be a in a general election, are also starting to attack Wilson in a new web video for her connections to former President Bush and Sen. John McCain.

More bad press for Haridopolos: Mike Haridopolis got another in a long line of tough headlines over the weekend. The Miami Herald found that the Florida state Senate president and Republican U.S. Senate candidate helped steer money to the college that gave him $152,000 for a book that was never published.

When asked recently by a reporter whether the $152,000 book deal was worth it, Haridopolos

snapped back: "I don't know. How much are you worth?" He says he hopes the college publishes or releases the 175-page "Florida Legislative History and Processes."

Haridopolos is planning to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D) next year. Even without the problems from his book deal and an ethics reprimand he recently got, he might have trouble winning a Republican primary due to his votes to increase taxes in the state.

Hochul run hitting roadblocks: According to Buffalo News columnist Bob McCarthy, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul (D) would like to run in the race to replace former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.).

But many Democrats want her to stay in her current job, thinking they don't have a good chance at the seat and, even if they do win the special election, they could easily lose it in redistricting.

Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan said recently that he believes Hochul is "seriously considering" representing the party in the 26th District.

"Kathy has had interest in Congress for a long time," Lenihan said. "She is looking at it very seriously, though she had made no decision."

Fixbits:

More than half (51 percent) of Wisconsin voters are opposed to Gov. Scott Walker's (R) efforts to rein in public employee benefits, while 46 percent support him, according to a new poll for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a free-market think tank. The poll also found 51 percent of voters disapprove of state Senate Democrats' decision to flee the state to avoid a vote on the proposals.

Speaking of the state Senate, recall campaigns have been launched on both sides against every member of that body who is eligible for recall.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has set an April 7 deadline for himself to make a decision on running for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-Ariz.) seat. Rep. Jeff Flake is already in the race on the GOP side.

Further evidence that Mike Huckabee is the favorite of evangelicals.

Colorado Democrats are worried about a new redistricting bill that one Democratic state legislator says could hand Republicans six of seven congressional seats.

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola says the fiscally conservative group, which often gets involved in GOP primaries, is keeping a close eye on Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) won a small presidential straw poll in Oregon.

Must-reads:

"GOP presidential contest begins to warm up" -- Paul West, Los Angeles Times

"Missteps Mark Early Phase of 2012 Primary Fight" -- Rick Klein, ABC News

"Can Mitt Romney win in 2012?" -- Beth Reinhard, National Journal

"Obama vs. Huntsman: Kindness as strategy" -- Thomas Burr, Salt Lake Tribune

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza  | March 7, 2011; 8:10 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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