A few months ago, Mitt Romney sat down with Fox News’ Bret Baier, who asked the former governor about his support for a health care mandate. Romney, visibly agitated, repeatedly denied ever advocating a national mandate policy.
When Baier reminded Romney, “Governor you did say on camera and other places that, at times, you thought it would be a model for the nation,” the Republican presidential hopeful got even angrier, snapping back, “You’re wrong, Bret.”
Actually, you’re right, Bret.
There’s been evidence to the contrary bouncing around for a while, but Andrew Kaczynski posted three separate clips from the summer of 2009 in which Romney expressed support for President Obama modeling the Affordable Care Act on the Massachusetts reform law.
This video, in particular, was of interest, not only because it shows Romney expressing support for a national mandate, but because it also features Romney voicing approval for the Wyden-Bennett plan – which also included a national mandate.
Making matters slightly worse, Kaczynski also reports on a July 2009 op-ed Romney published in USA Today, which no longer appears on the newspaper’s website, but which also argues for a national mandate.
To be sure, there’s nothing inherently shocking about any of this. As recently as 2009, most Republicans supported a health care mandate as a standard provision in any reform package. But the GOP completed a sharp, 180-degree turn as the vote on Obama’s plan drew closer in late 2009, and Romney has spent the last two years running for president denying his support for a policy he endorsed – publicly and repeatedly – just a few years ago.
Given the Republican base’s opposition to mandates, imagine how damaging this could have been against Romney if he had even half-way serious challengers for the Republican nomination. Indeed, he’s lied consistently for years about his position on this, and none of the GOP candidates have made an issue of this.
Incidentally, why was Romney still urging Obama to adopt a mandate as recently as 2009? Jon Chait explains:
In 2009, Mitt Romney had a problem. He was running for the Republican presidential nomination, and the towering achievement of his governorship in Massachusetts – health care reform – had been embraced by President Obama. Romneycare played almost no role in Romney’s 2008 presidential run, but the emergence of the issue onto the national agenda threatened to link Romney with a president Republicans had already come to loathe.
His solution was simple. He seized upon the one major difference between his plan and Obama’s, which was that Obama favored a public health insurance option. The public plan had commanded enormous public attention, and Romney used to it frame Masscare as a conservative reform relying on private health insurance, and against Obama’s proposal to create a government plan that, Romney claimed, would balloon into a massive entitlement.
The problem, of course, is that Joe Lieberman killed the public option, leaving two reform laws – “Obamacare” and “Romneycare” – with no meaningful differences.
That’s not what Romney bargained for. Fortunately for him, though, his competitors for the Republican nomination weren’t competent enough to take advantage of any of this.