The Fix: Romney's tea party-friendly defense on health care
Mitt Romney made some of his most significant statements yet this weekend about the health care bill he signed as governor of Massachusetts, offering a preview of his defense for what many are expecting to be a potent line of attack for Romney's opponents.
And in doing so, Romney appears be trying a tea party-ish angle.
Romney, delivering a speech to the Carroll County Lincoln Day Dinner in the all-important primary state of New Hampshire on Saturday, acknowledged there are things he would have done differently given a second chance - a half-mea culpa for a program that has often been compared to President Obama's health care bill. (Even Obama has compared the two.)
His next point may have been the most interesting, though. Romney emphasized that his state faced its own set of issues and sought to separate a state's effort from a federal one.
"Our approach was a state plan intended to address problems that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts,"Romney said. "What we did there as Republicans and Democrats was what the Constitution intended for states to do; we were one of the laboratories of democracy."
The subtle implication, of course, is that he wouldn't have tried for the United States what he attempted in Massachusetts. And that's how he separates himself from Obama.
But perhaps more interesting are Romney's not-so-subtle federalist overtones. Federalism - the belief that states should lead the way in effecting policy - is a very popular ideal in the tea party movement
What's not so popular in the tea party movement, of course, is Obama's health care bill.
Romney went on to lay into that bill, calling it "ObamaCare" (some are calling Romney's bill "RomneyCare") and vowing to repeal it.
And yet again, Romney returned to federalism.
"One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover," he said. "ObamaCare is bad law constitutionally, bad policy, and it is bad for America's families."
The question for the tea party - and other conservatives - is whether they will accept this line of argument. Does it make it OK to institute an individual health insurance mandate, as long as you're doing it at the state level and not the federal one?