Mitt Romney’s authenticity appeal on health care

at 03:10 PM ET, 05/12/2011

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney used a speech on health care today in Michigan to send a broader message about his commitment to authenticity in the 2012 presidential race.

Speaking to a small group of invited guests and reporters at the University of Michigan this afternoon, Romney, as expected, refused to apologize for signing a health care law in Massachusetts that has drawn unfavorable comparisons among Republicans to the national law put in place by President Obama.

“It wouldn’t be honest,” Romney said about calls for him to apologize for the Massachusetts law. “ I did what I believed was right for the people of my state.”

Later, Romney noted that his current health care proposal was very similar to what he proposed during the 2008 campaign despite the fact that his experience in Massachusetts had gone from a political positive to a negative over the past three plus years. “I am not adjusting the plan to reflect the political sentiment,” Romney said.

After walking the audience through the “why” of the Massachusetts plan, Romney acknowledged that “that explanation is not going to satisfy everybody” and added: “I respect the views of people who think we took the wrong course.”

But, it wasn’t just the words Romney used that aimed to push the authenticity narrative.

He spoke without a prepared script and without a TelePrompter, choosing instead to use a PowerPoint presentation to make his case. He wore no tie. He was accompanied to the speech by just three staffers.

The entire presentation screamed openness, pushing the idea that Romney is someone willing to be transparent about what he believes and why he believes it.

All of that is in striking contrast to the way Romney ran in 2008 when his flip-flops on social issues created a destructive storyline that he lacked conviction on any issue — choosing only to take the politically expedient path in every situation.

He and his political team have clearly made the calculation that the only strategic path for Romney to win the nomination is to “let Mitt be Mitt” — to embrace rather than run from his past records and statements.

That approach is not without political peril. Even before he spoke today, Romney was already faced with a quote from the 1990s unearthed by a liberal Massachusetts blog in which he expressed support for the idea of a federal mandate that would require everyone to purchase some form of health insurance, a major no-no for conservative voters.

And Romney’s opponents for the 2012 GOP nomination will spend untold hours combing through his record to find other instances where, on health care and other issues, he has contradicted himself to try and play up the flip-flop narrative.

But today’s speech was a clear attempt by Romney’s campaign to send the field a message: Romney is done running from his record. The question in the days, weeks and months to come is whether that strategy is the right one.

View Romney’s presentation:

 
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