Mitt Romney appeared last night for an interview with Brett Baier (video below). Too bad Brett didn’t ask Romney why Romney refused to appear before the full panel on Center Seat, like the other candidates have done.
My biggest reaction is that it’s bizarre that Romney refuses to admit he made a mistake on Romneycare and sees sticking by a failed policy as a virtue.
I think most people will disagree with Romney, both on the merits of Romneycare and the power of acknowledging one’s own failings. I suggested a year ago tomorrow that this refusal was an error, and I have made that point a number of times since then.
Even Jennifer Rubin, long before she embarked on her obsessive Romneyquest, recognized the problem:
However, if there is one point of consensus among plugged-in Republicans on the 2012 field, it is that Romney can’t win unless he does a mea culpa on RomneyCare. Since he didn’t [do that at CPAC] and he won’t do that, he’s not going to be the nominee. Other than Romney admirers (and even some of them!) it’s hard to find serious Republican players who disagree with that.
And so when Romney ignored the topic at CPAC, he hardly did “no harm.” To the contrary, he simply reinforced the notion that he has an insuperable problem. Not only did his “ignore the elephant in the room” tactic not go over well with Republican pols, activists and insiders, but the competition showed up. The presence of a number of smart conservative contenders who don’t have the RomneyCare problem (e.g. Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)) reinforced the underlying problem with Romney’s candidacy: Why vote for him when Republicans can vote for someone who didn’t originate ObamaCare-lite?
Rubin continued her criticism in those pre-Romneyquest days when Romney continued to defend Romneycare:
As a Republican presidential candidate, Romney will find it hard to defend a system that resulted in a 12 percent increase in insurance rates (“meaning that basic insurance costs will cut even deeper into the incomes of most participating patients,” [Sally] Pipes notes) and that forced businesses to swallow ”annual rate increases of 10 to 15 percent since MassCare’s inception.” For a candidate who is focusing on job creation, he’ll have to address the criticism that his plan “made it harder and harder for businesses to stay in the state. And it’s made the state less attractive for entrepreneurs and investors.”
Rubin pointed out that Romney’s defense of Romneycare was inexplicable:
And finally, Romney showed himself to be the weakest frontrunner since, well, maybe Rudy Giuliani in 2008. Romney, unlike Giuliani, has a well-oiled campaign team and a strategy to focus on early primaries. However, there is no sign that he understands the enormity of his RomneyCare problem or has come up with a credible response.
Rubin was as brutal on Romneycare rendering Romney unelectable as she recently has been on everyone else:
This remark [by Obama that Romneycare was the template for Obamacare] – and many episodes like it — will be gold for Romney’s presidential primary components [sic]. Romney may think he can avoid or minimize the problem, but the central issue remains for primary voters: Why select the pol who first popularized the individual mandate?
Those who stand to benefit from Romney’s baggage — e.g. Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels — need not go “negative” themselves to make hay out of this. Between the free media and Mike Huckabee fanning the flames at every opportunity, not to mention Tea Partyers and third-party groups, they can remain above the fray while Romney battles his critics.
Rubin rejected the notion that the federal/state distinction would or did work (italics in original):
This is the argument that Romney has been using for some time. As I have explained, it is a nonstarter for most conservatives who object to the notion of an individual mandate that was at the core of Romney’s plan. When I talk to Republican operatives and officeholders about this RomneyCare defense, someone usually asks, “Yeah, yeah, but what is their real argument?” The short answer is: This is it. The Romney team expects that the distinction between a state individual mandate and a national one will be good enough to get through a primary against lesser-known opponents. He’ll just talk about other things, the reasoning goes, even though opposition to ObamaCare and the growth of the federal government has been the driving force behind the conservative movement for a couple of years. Most Republicans I speak with think Romney’s problem is insoluble. But a smart Republican insider cautioned me yesterday, “In a divided field you just never know.” I suppose. But still.
Rubin found it “delusional” to believe that Romney could be the nominee without doing a Romneycare mea culpa:
If Romney never faces a tough question on RomneyCare, never has to debate and never confronts Tea Partyers enraged by any plan that requires citizens to buy insurance, he’ll do just fine. But that’s delusional.
Rubin made a persuasive case that Romney’s defense of Romneycare rendered him all but unelectable. Nothing has changed in Romney’s position on Romneycare.
In the commentary by the panel afterwards (not in this video), Jonah Goldberg said Romney “looks like he was designed by East German scientists as the perfect android presidential candidate.” (That’s not an exact quote, but pretty close, as I’m doing it from memory and my contemporaneous tweet).
(h/t HotAir for video link)