Phil could easily turn out to be right that Mitt Romney will overcome Romneycare as John McCain overcame immigration, especially if he can plausibly change the subject to jobs or something else. At the moment, Romney looks like the most probable nominee.
The one thing that cuts against this, however, is a major reason McCain won the nomination last time around: Mitt Romney. Romney was never able to consolidate conservative support. You can partly blame that on other candidates, but Romney’s failure to close the sale with the right is exactly what created the openings for Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson in the first place. With the conservative vote split, McCain’s task became a lot easier. Can Romney get a broad base of support behind him this time?
Of course, McCain ended up losing the election. The “enthusiasm gap” between him and Barack Obama wasn’t the most important reason for his loss, but it was a major factor. But if Romney doesn’t end up like McCain, he could share fellow Bay Stater John Kerry’s fate. Kerry tried to run against George W. Bush on the issue on which he was most vulnerable — the Iraq war — but was limited in his ability to do so because he voted to go to war himself. Romney’s criticisms of Obamacare could well end up sounding like Kerry’s attacks on the war he voted for.