This week, as the Supreme Court reviews the Obama administration’s health-care law, Romney’s remaining opponents for the Republican presidential nomination are trying to capitalize on what may be one of their last opportunities to deny him the prize.
Rick Santorum is urgently attacking “Romneycare,” arguing that Romney would effectively forfeit one of the biggest issues Republicans have to run against Obama.
His campaign has fired off daily e-mails and videos highlighting the Massachusetts law, while the former senator from Pennsylvania has been particularly animated in talking about the issue; he uttered an expletive Sunday night at a New York Times reporter who asked him to clarify his line of attack on Romney.
“It’s the best opportunity for us to make the case about big government, to make the case about individual liberty, to make the case about budget deficits being blown wide open, to make the case about people not getting quality health care and have rationing of health care and government mandating you and making you do something against your economic interests, against your religious interests,” Santorum told reporters Monday over breakfast in Washington.
Calling health care “the mega issue,” he argued that Romney is “the one guy who can’t make the case.”
To emphasize his differences with Romney on health care, Santorum held a campaign event Monday on the steps of the Supreme Court as the justices were concluding the first of three days of oral arguments.
He told reporters that the Massachusetts law is “one of the reasons the jury’s still very much out” on Romney’s candidacy.
GOP voters cite economy
But it is difficult to measure how much it has hurt Romney in the nominating contest. Just 6 percent of Republicans nationally rated health care as the top issue, well behind the economy and general dissatisfaction with government, in a March Gallup poll. In January, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 27 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said Romney’s health-care record was a major reason to oppose him. But 21 percent saw it as a reason to support him.
Romney’s biggest problem may be that his overhaul in Massachusetts places him ideologically to the left of much of the GOP base. In three big states whose primaries Romney won — Florida, Illinois and Ohio — about four in 10 Republican voters called Romney “not conservative enough” in exit polls.
“It’s clearly a vulnerability for Governor Romney, but by coming out so strongly for repealing and replacing Obamacare, while he may not have completely neutralized the issue, he’s taken a good deal of the sting out of it,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said.