Last night, Mitt Romney suddenly embraced Massachusetts’ health care law, a topic he’s previously left in the ditch somewhere along the campaign trail between his time as governor of a moderate state and his decision to be “severely conservative.”
Never mind that Romney and his campaign have recoiled from linking the GOP presidential nominee to his record as governor of Massachusetts, in light of an unearthed video showing Romney write-off 47% of the electorate, chatting about universal health care doesn’t seem too bad. So long as he sounds empathetic.
"I think throughout this campaign as well, we talked about my record in Massachusetts, don't forget -- I got everybody in my state insured," Romney told NBC's Ron Allen. "One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don't think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record."
But perhaps there is a record that shows more empathy and care about the people of the country: affordable health care for “100% of kids” in not just Massachusetts, but also for the entire country. It's called the Affordable Care Act, signed by one President Obama.
It appears that Romney is sprinting away from fears that touting his accomplishment would undermine the GOP’s message to "repeal and replace" every inch of Obamacare. After all, Massachusetts’ universal health care law was used as the foundation of Obama’s own federal law.
Early on in the Republican primary, presidential dropout Tim Pawlenty who made the shortlist of Romney’s vice presidential picks this year, was the first to coin “Romneycare” as a riff off of the partisan name-calling that condemned Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The topic was such a four letter word for both the candidate and the party that Romney’s spokesman made waves in August for merely mentioning the Massachusetts health care plan. The gaffe made conservatives like RedState’s Erick Erickson say “OMG. This might just be the moment Mitt Romney lost the election. Wow” on Twitter.
The strategy in avoiding all talk of an issue that could simultaneously appeal to the middle of the electorate while giving substantive resume-building accomplishments came to a halt after his now infamous remarks on the "victims" of society. Cue the general election pivot, and pander to score some much-needed empathy points as Romney slides down the polls.
But even Ann Romney veered off-track this week in characterizing her husband as an empathetic man. During her appearance on "The Tonight Show," Mrs. Romney responded to the backlash from her husband’s remarks on the 47% by building up his character and referencing a nameless, perhaps hypothetical, dying boy.
“This is a guy that cares for the 100%,” Ann told Leno. “And there's things I've seen him do when he was a busy, busy executive, and just starting our family and all of these boys, and all of this confusion. But where do you find Mitt? You'll find him at the bedside of a dying boy. And who is he bringing there with him? He's not talking about doing something, he's the guy that does.”
And with only 40 days left in the general election, the Romneys have little time to make caring about the “100%” a new tagline. There is just under one week until Romney and Obama square off in their first presidential debate, and leading into the homestretch Obama is already edging ahead in polls from key swing states.