Via David Frum, I see that Hugh Hewitt is previewing a conservative defense of Romneycare in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez in NRO:
LOPEZ: Is it unfair to consider it the precursor to Obamacare?
HEWITT: Yes, but that is a powerful narrative for Team Obama to spin and their friends in the MSM have picked it up. Among the many huge differences: The Massachusetts plan was constitutional and Obamacare isn’t. The Massachusetts plan was a negotiated compromise between two branches and two parties while Obamacare was a one-party jam down. Obamacare raised taxes and cut benefits massively and Massachusetts care did neither. The list goes on and on.
I’ve explained before why I don’t think the federalism argument settles the matter. One problem is that it will force conservatives to defend at least state-level individual mandates and it will remind voters that the federal individual mandate has a Republican pedigree. Hewitt shows this to be the case in this interview:
LOPEZ: Why did the Heritage Foundation and Governor Romney consider an individual mandate conservative or otherwise acceptable?
HEWITT: Because “mandates” at the state level have never been unacceptable and still aren’t unacceptable except to a handful of libertarian purists. We accept the mandate that children must be educated, if not in public schools then in private schools or at home. We accept vaccine mandates. We accept car-insurance mandates. We accept smog-emission mandates. States have the “police power” that the Constitution withheld from the federal government.
At present, my guess is more conservatives agree with Quin than Hewitt. But if Romney were actually the nominee, many would suppress their anti-mandate arguments for the good of the Republican ticket. I reviewed Hewitt’s book-length exercise in Romney apologetics, A Mormon in the White House?, the last time around.