TOLEDO -- Over the course of a half hour on Wednesday evening, Mitt Romney put on a vivid display of his political flexibility on the lightning-rod issue of health care.
As his surrogates were warming up a crowd of 3,600 at the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown Toledo, Romney sat backstage for an interview with NBC News, during which he fully embraced the health care overhaul he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts.
“Don’t forget,” Romney said, “I got everybody in my state insured. 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.”
Then, just minutes later, Romney stepped out to rally his supporters here with a sharp critique of Obama’s national health-care overhaul, calling the federal law “Exhibit No. 1” of Obama’s liberal view of government, even though it is very similar to Romney’s own Massachusetts law.
“I will repeal Obamacare and replace it with real health care reform,” Romney said at the rally. “You see, Obamacare is really Exhibit No. 1 of the president’s political philosophy, and that is that government knows better than people how to run your lives. It is a view that government should stand between you and your doctor. I don’t believe in a bigger and bigger government…I believe in freedom.”
Romney's comments to NBC represented his strongest embrace of the Massachusetts law in some time, while his attack on Obama's law at the rally was one of his toughest.
Romney has long maintained that there is no contradiction between embracing his Massachusetts law and vowing to repeal Obama’s federal law. He considers the Massachusetts law a state-specific solution and has said he would not support a law that amounts to a federal takeover.
But the Obama campaign quickly seized on Romney’s comments to NBC, saying that his national health care plan is not empathetic.
“Mitt Romney is working overtime to rehabilitate his image after being caught writing off half of all Americans to a room of high-dollar donors,” Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said in a statement. “But his warm and fuzzy rhetoric doesn’t match up with his policies, principles, or priorities.”