ROMNEYCARE:: How Rick Santorum Nailed Mitt – The Daily Beast

By at January 29, 2012 | 1:00 pm | Print

ROMNEYCARE:: How Rick Santorum Nailed Mitt – The Daily Beast

Remember Tim Pawlenty, the corn-pone-ish ex–Minnesota governor who surely wishes he hadn’t dropped out of the presidential race when he did? Remember his coinage “Obamneycare,” which he used in debates starting last June? Of course you remember. And if you don’t, I would expect and hope that this fall, the Obama campaign will start reminding you, because a moment in Thursday night’s debate brought into stark relief just how the issue of health care—which on paper ought to be an absolutely galvanizing issue for conservative voters this November—could instead damage for Mitt Romney this fall.

Republican presidential candidates former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, left, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in a debate sponsored by CNN, the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network at the University North Florida on January 26, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. , Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The moment was, of course, the exchange between Rick Santorum and Romney when Santorum was aggressively challenging Romney about health care. Romney was going through his standard defense of his health-care plan, saying it was right for Massachusetts but not for other states. Santorum wasn’t buying it: “Think about what that means going up against Barack Obama … You are going to claim [about the Affordable Care Act], ‘Well, it doesn’t work and we should repeal.’ And he’s going to say, ‘Wait a minute, governor. You said it works well in Massachusetts.’ Folks—we can’t give this issue away in this election. It is about fundamental freedom … It’s going to be on your ballot as to whether there should be a government mandate here in Florida. According to Governor Romney, that’s OK.”

That broadside forced Romney to go a step or two further in defense of his plan than he usually prefers to go. He went on, for example, about how the bill dramatically reduced the number of uninsured in his state, which it indeed has. But that sentence is a walking advertisement for the argument that the Affordable Care Act is going to succeed in doing exactly the same thing once it kicks in come 2014.

For the purposes of how this plays out in debates this fall, there are two issues here: first, that of substantive difference between the bills, and second, what I’ll call states’ rights.

On the substance, there is virtually no difference between the bills. Well, OK, there are two differences. No. 1 is that Romney did not vastly expand Medicaid in constructing his bill. No. 2 is that Romney did not raise taxes to pay for his bill. Now, both of those differences sound like they reflect very well on Romney—he didn’t expand a big-government program that most people associate with poor folks and therefore do not like, and he didn’t raise taxes.

But why didn’t his bill do either of those things? It didn’t expand Medicaid, because governors have no right to expand Medicaid. And he didn’t raise taxes because—ready?—the federal government paid for about half of it ($385 million, largely in Medicaid money). And the federal government paid for about half of it largely because of the efforts of … Teddy Kennedy, Romney’s great ally in putting the bill through. Jon Gruber, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology health economist who worked on Romney’s bill, has said, with only slight exaggeration: “They’re the same fucking bill. He [Romney] just can’t have his cake and eat it too. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.”

via Michael Tomasky on How Rick Santorum Nailed Mitt on Romneycare – The Daily Beast.

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