Throughout the GOP primary season, Mitt Romney made the argument that Romneycare was different from Obamacare because what Romney could do at the state level with Romneycare when he was governor of Massachusetts, Obama could not do at the national level with Obamacare.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare eliminated this distinction. Romney, by not having apologized for Romneycare and made the argument that he was the best candidate to understand why Obamacare will not work, finds himself in a precarious predicament.
The Supreme Court’s ruling has energized conservatives. It also forces Obama to defend a bill and a tax that is increasingly unpopular among Americans, especially independent voters, and represents a broken promise to middle class Americans that Obama would not raise taxes on them. It is a winning issue against which Romney can run.
But to run against Obamacare, Romney will have to run against a law that was modeled after the one he designed and touted in Massachusetts. The mainstream media, knowing Obamacare is a losing issue for Obama, will try to pressure Romney to not re-litigate Obamacare or frame Romney’s opposition against Obamacare as a refudiation of Romneycare.
But Romney not only can run against Obamacare, he must, if he has any intention of winning the White House or concern about stopping Obama’s designs to transform America, which became clearer after yesterday’s ruling.
Conservatives were always worried that Romney’s political expediency and Romneycare would be his greatest liabilities in a general election against Obama. Now, those will be his greatest strengths, as what is good for Romney politically — this time — happens to be what most Americans will think is best for the country.
“Our mission is clear, if we want to get rid of Obamacare, we have to replace President Obama,” Romney said in Washington, D.C. immediately after the Court’s ruling. “I will act to repeal Obamacare.”
Romney’s best argument will be that Obamacare cannot be repealed without a Republican president. But to win this argument, Romney has to frame Obamacare as something that is more than just bad policy. Romney has to convince voters that Obamacare represents Obama’s penchant for deceit, reckless spending, curtailing liberties, expanding government, and taxing and fining people to force them to purchase what the government deems necessary, which would be even more unchecked during a second term.
If Romney can nationalize and make the election about Obamacare, he may win. If Obama can localize the election around the “Affordable Care Act,” Obama will win.
Let me explain.
If Romney makes the election about Obamacare, it will be a referendum on Obama, his policies, and intentions. This is something Obama does not want. If Obama makes the election about The Affordable Care Act, the election will be a referendum on Romney, and Romney will be disadvantaged.
To accomplish this, Obama and Democrats will talk up all of Obamacare’s popular provisions and try to convince Americans that those goodies will be taken away if Romney is elected.
Second, Obama will most assuredly ask Romney how he could run against Obamacare when Romney thought Romneycare was good for Massachusetts. If Romney accepts the premise that Romneycare has been a success, he must respond that the country cannot afford to pay for Obamacare while spiraling in debt. More daringly, Romney could concede that Romneycare has failed in many ways — burdening businesses, increasing premiums, not achieving universal coverage, and bloating the healthcare bureaucracy — and admit that such an experiment on the national scale would be perilous and treacherous.
Last night on FOX News’ “On the Record,” former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Obamacare was “a harbinger of things yet to come.” This is the argument that Romney must make to the American people.
Obamacare is not just about healthcare. It is about a government that can now tax people who do not buy or do something. Will the government now tax people who do not eat a list of mandated healthy foods? How about taxing people who do not abort children they know will be developmentally disabled? How about taxing people who choose not to purchase Internet access? These examples are a bit extreme, but after yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, can anyone say they are far beyond the realm of what could be possible if a president and a Congress one day wanted to levy such “taxes?”
This is frightening.
Yesterday, Romney said that while the Supreme Court ruled Obamacare was constitutional, what the Court did not do was “say it is good law or good policy.”
More Americans than not think Obamacare is not good policy or law. What Romney must do, in running against Obamacare, is make a forceful case that what Obamacare really is is a terrible and dangerous precedent that fundamentally threatens the survival of America as a republic that is tethered to constitutional principles.