I took away several things from the encounter (not counting the fact that the lady really wasn’t listening). Romney is very good under fire and has command of the facts, but he never engaged her on a personal level even while she was describing her family’s medical and financial woes. People in that diner are unlikely to remember the specifics of the Romney plan, but they will react either positively (“hey, he knows his stuff and kept cool”) or negatively (“hey, he didn’t even go up to the lady or say he was sorry about her kids’ medical problems”). On the policy and strategy side, even if Romney decides to depart from his individual mandate approach in his national healthcare plan, he’s going to be stuck defending the Massachusetts plan. He sounded, dare I say, McCain-like in defending how Democrats and Republicans “came together” in Massachusetts to solve a big problem. Critics, including perhaps Giuliani, will come at him from the right and tag him as a proponent of government medical care. His response may be Rudy-like: what’s good for Massachusetts may not be good for the whole country. It is going to be an interesting debate.
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