Mitt Romney gave it the old college try in his health care speech today. Faced with a choice between disowning one of his biggest legislative accomplishments and adding to his list of flip-flops or doubling down on the Massachusetts health care law, Romney has chosen to double down. No matter how skillfully his health care lines are delivered, doubling down creates a basic problem that cannot be resolved.
Romney has to defend a state-level plan that shares the basic architecture of the national plan he proposes to repeal. He has to argue for the repeal of Obamacare without using the best arguments for repeal, which are the real-world failures of his own health care plan in Massachusetts. Romney has to defend in principle the individual mandate that has become central to the constitutional challenge against Obamacare, hoping that the federalism argument can make people forget the individual mandate’s Republican pedigree and the fact that Romneycare was inspired in part by people who had advocated the individual mandate at the federal level. How effective were John Kerry and John Edwards at arguing against the Iraq war they voted for during the 2004 campaign? To many people, the distinctions will sound like technicalities.
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