Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is generally considered to be the front-runner for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2012, mainly owing to the fact that he was the silver medalist in the primaries of 2008. But a Romney candidacy remains a vulnerable one because the health care reform he shepherded into existence in Massachusetts is similar to the health care reform package the Democrats passed earlier this year. Since then, Romney's been furiously spinning, attempting to put some daylight between his health care plan and President Barack Obama's. Via Ben Craw, here's Romney mounting his defense on The O'Reilly Factor, this past Monday.
Romney's Republican colleagues, on the other hand, are not aiding this cause.
The latest Republican to blast Romneycare is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, himself a rumored contender for 2012. At a recent breakfast held by the American Spectator, Gingrich avoided mentioning Romney by name, but nevertheless cast his health care plan as similar to the just-passed reforms:
"It's the forerunner of Obamacare," Gingrich said when asked about the Massachusetts plan. "It is a general model in a general direction and it's the general direction that's wrong. And that's why I'm suggesting you need to be thinking about fundamental change, not just marginal reforms."
Gingrich follows in the footsteps of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who took the same tack against Romney a few weeks ago in an interview with the Nashua Telegraph:
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2012, said universal health care in Massachusetts is no model the nation should follow.
"The plan is dramatically propped up by federal money," he said. "Take that away and there would be dire economic consequences.
"Looking at the Massachusetts experience, it would not be one I would want for the country to follow any further.''
Now that Congress passed the health care reform law, the Massachusetts health experience could become even more a critical bellwether for Mitt Romney's second run for president, in 2012.
During an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Pawlenty didn't mention Romney by name, but he relayed how Massachusetts state Treasurer Tim Cahill warned that a national version of the Massachusets law could bankrupt the country in four years.
It seems there will be no let up on this issue. I'd also note that when you flashback to Romney's interactions on the stump in 2008, debating issues with his fellow contenders, you get the impression that Romney's colleagues just plain don't like him very much. The DNC recently sent around this video, containing one debate moment where Fred Thompson seems to enjoy making fun of Romney:
Rare were the moments where Fred Thompson mustered anything remotely recognizable as "enthusiasm," but Mitt seemed to get his dander up. I still remember how much John McCain relished sparring with Romney during the campaign:
Romney's still got a substantial constituent base willing to vote for him, but it's looking more and more like he'll have few genial colleagues running against him, and a ripe wedge issue to bash him with, repeatedly.