Mitt Romney’s biggest problem, some would say a fatal one, is his authorship of a health-care plan constructed around an individual mandate, a plan he negotiated with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. During the presidential campaign, he will have to explain it in most every interview, debate and appearance. He’ll have to explain why compulsory purchase of health-care insurance is a “conservative” idea. And, if questioners are clever, he’ll have to answer questions like, “Would you pass it again if you were governor?” and “Given the doctor shortages and rising costs of health care in Massachusetts, do you think it was a success?”

For now Romney is peddling the same, ineffective line that the problem with the plan he inspired — Obamacare — is merely that it invades the prerogative of states to devise their own plans. He writes at the Corner blog :

If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states. The executive order would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them.

As I have stated time and again, a one-size-fits-all national plan that raises taxes is simply not the answer. Under our federalist system, the states are “laboratories of democracy.” They should be free to experiment. By the way, what works in one state may not be the answer for another. Of course, the ultimate goal is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs. But since an outright repeal would take time, an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states.

One has to wonder whether he thinks his own plan was based on “free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs.”Normally, the free market doesn’t compel you to buy something you don’t want.

The problem for Romney is that each time he comes out with a “Sure, I’d end Obamacare” line, he only reminds conservatives that he’s the candidate who championed and still defends a nearly identical plan. His promise to end Obamacare is not a winning line for him; rather it is nails on the chalkboard to the base.

In 2008 he barely convinced conservatives that he was pro-life. He’s going to have a much harder time convincing them in 2012 that he has a conservative approach to health care, and indeed, a conservative mind-set that recognizes and opposes the tell-tale signs of liberal statism. To be blunt, conservatives oppose most government compulsion, shifting decision-making from individuals to the state, and creating bureaucracies that require an ever-growing share of the economy. It is far from clear that Romney does.