Just a few minutes ago, Mitt Romney concluded a speech on health care at the University of Michigan that followed on an op-ed he wrote for today's USA Today. The former Massachusetts governor has been dogged by criticism over the state health care law he passed in 2006 that guaranteed coverage for almost all residents and has been seen by some critics as (in the words of the Wall Street Journal's editorial), "a prototype for President Obama's version." In his speech today he didn't try to distance himself from the Massachusetts law, but he did try to distinguish that legislation from the 2010 health care bill championed by President Barack Obama. "Our plan was a state solution to a state problem and his plan was a federal power grab," Romney said.
But his argument that the Massachusetts law was "right for the people of my state," and that it was different from so-called Obamacare because it did not create a massive bureaucracy, didn't sway many Republicans who had already come to the conclusion that the candidate favored a big-government solution to health care reform. "How do you run against Obamacare when he based that on your plan in Massachusetts," asked Iowa Tea Party leader Ryan Rhodes in a Bloomberg article on the speech. Fellow Republican and possible election opponent Rick Santorum slammed the speech outright:
I greatly respect Governor Romney and admire many of his personal and professional accomplishments, but his work to institute the precursor to national socialized medicine is not one of them. Both Romneycare and Obamacare infringe upon individual freedom and exponentially increase the government's healthcare cost burden. Romneycare has, in fact, not made healthcare better or saved costs in Massachusetts. It's done just the opposite.
On Twitter, the critics were many and vocal. Libertarian blogger Casey Head wrote, "Do not want! Romney nomination would kill the momentum of Obamacare repeal." GOP Insider suggested Romney was "too arrogant to admit mistake" on the Massachusetts law. And Ace of Spades blogger Drew Tips cracked, "Sounds like Romney is lucky none of the cable nets carried his excuse, er speech." On the left, Democratic New York Rep. Anthony Weiner got off a good one: "Does Mitt's plan cover the care you need after you've tied yourself in a knot explaining yourself?"
Some disinterested watchers characterized the speech as a decent defense of Romney's record, but they were drowned out by jeers from both ends of the political spectrum. Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein offered consolation: "This speech made me feel immense pity for Mitt Romney. It's a choice between policy he's believes in and is proud of and his career."