Jonathan Gruber, the M.I.T. professor whose ideas were central to Mitt Romney’s health reform law as governor of Massachusetts, has pilloried Romney in the past for seeming to distance himself from his signature accomplishment. But I’m not sure he’s ever gone quite as far as he did in this interview with Capital New York, in which he said Romney is flat out “lying” when he tries to make a distinction between Romneycare and Obamacare:

He credited Mitt Romney for not totally disavowing the Massachusetts bill during his presidential campaign, but said Romney’s attempt to distinguish between Obama’s bill and his own is disingenuous.

“The problem is there is no way to say that,” Gruber said. “Because they’re the same f---ing bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.”

That last line seems to be a reference to Romneycare’s reliance on Federal subsidies. Gruber is suggesting it’s not only disingenuous for Romney to claim his plan is different from Romneycare, but that the federal/state-level distinction Romney draws to defend it is also disingenuous because of the Federal money that enabled his plan.

Relatedly, I’m with Steve Benen and Jonathan Bernstein: Why aren’t Romney’s GOP rivals attacking him more aggressively over this? A recent Bloomberg poll found that more than half of likely Iowa caucus goers would “rule out” supporting Romney because of Romneycare’s individual mandate. Why aren’t Romney’s rivals hitting him harder over Romneycare, day in and day out?

After all, Romney created the model for a Federal domestic program that, if it endures, could ultimately prove as politically important and defining an achievement for Democrats as the big welfare-state achievements of the 20th Century have proven. As Gruber puts it:

“Look, if this succeeds, then Obama becomes F.D.R. This is the most important social policy accomplishment since the 1960s. And if this succeeds, this could be the kind of benefit to the Democratic Party that Social Security was. So if I was the Republicans, I’d be screaming and kicking and scratching to kill it too, on purely political grounds.”

And it’s all thanks to Mitt Romney. Why isn’t this an absolutely dominant issue in the GOP primary?