In a remarkable interview with the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, Mitt Romney says that he would not recommend that any other states adopt the health reform plan he passed as Governor of Massachusetts — his signature accomplishment as a public official — in its entirety:

I asked what states would benefit by adopting the system he created in Massachusetts.

“In its entirety, not very many,” Romney answered. “Because it’s not even perfect for Massachusetts. At the time we created it, I vetoed several measures and said these, I think, are mistakes, and you in Massachusetts will find you have to correct them over time. But that’s the nature of a piece of legislation of this nature. You’ll see what works, what doesn’t, and you’ll make the changes. But they have not made those changes, and in some cases they made things worse. So I wouldn’t encourage any state to adopt it in toto.”

“You wouldn’t recommend that any state adopt the plan that was adopted in Massachusetts in its entirety?”

“In its entirety, no,” Romney said.

The DNC is claiming this is a “flip flop,” but it isn’t really a flip flop. Romney has consistently argued that he thinks states should pass their own health reform plans in keeping with their specific situations. It’s true that Romney did claim on Meet the Press in 2007 that he thought the individual mandate in his plan should serve as a model for “most” states, and said he hoped for “a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.” But those quotes was about the mandate, and not about whether other states should adopt the Massachusetts plan in its entirety, as today’s interview was.

That said, the key point remains that conservatives don’t acknowledge the legitimacy of the distinction Romney is drawing here. They don’t care that Romney said that only states, and not the Federal government, should have the power to compel people to buy health insurance. They object to this policy tool as a tyrannical act of government, either on the Federal or state level.

Indeed, this new Romney interview offers a hook for a good follow up question: Would Romney recommend that other states adopt Massachusetts’s mandate approach? That will be tougher for him to answer.

There’s another nugget in this interview that’s worth a look. Check out this exchange from the transcript:

BYRON YORK: Governor, on health care, you’ve often said that the health care plan that you’ve created in Massachusetts would be a good model for some other states. You said, “Maybe not every state, but most.”
ROMNEY: I don’t think I said “most,” but —
YORK: On “Meet the Press” in 2007.
ROMNEY: Oh did I? Did I make that exaggeration? [Laughs].

I get that Romney was joking, but still: He just described his own past assertion about the success of his signature accomplishment — one that’s now politically inconvenient for him — as an “exaggeration.”