Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is throwing a Faneuil Hall birthday party for Romneycare, which turns six today. Think this is a coincidence? Patrick is close to the Obama administration and his first gubernatorial campaign was run by David Axelrod.
Coming the day after Rick Santorum ended his presidential campaign — and effectively ended any prospect of denying Mitt Romney the Republican nomination — it is a reminder of why conservatives were so reluctant to embrace the GOP frontrunner. Romney signed into law a state-level health care reform bill that contains an individual mandate and otherwise shares the basic architecture of Obamacare. Romneycare’s failures are the best real-world examples that Obamacare will not work, yet Republicans are powerless to make that argument.
Santorum was pressing the Romneycare case pretty hard in the waning days of his campaign, and Barack Obama can be expected to play up its similarities to Obamacare for different reasons — to portray his federal power grab as mainstream, bipartisan, and no big deal. Of course, the state mandate doesn’t raise the same constitutional questions as Obama’s federal version.
The Supreme Court may give Romney an assist by throwing out the individual mandate or the entire federal health care law. This should allow Romney to recast the debate about how to deal with health care going forward, an area where he will be able to draw effective contrasts with Obama. Yet it is also likely to keep the individual mandate in the news for a number of weeks.