Mitt Romney's camp is pushing back on a report from a relatively obscure conservative blogger that the former Massachusetts governor said he would not repeal the individual mandate for insurance coverage that is part of President Obama's health insurance package.
On Monday, Kavon Nikrad of the sight RightoSphere.com, said that he approached Romney at a book party hosted by Freedom Foundation of Minnesota and asked him if he would support the repeal of the "individual mandate and pre-existing exclusion."
Romney, whose support for an individual mandate while governor of Massachusetts has caused severe headaches for him in recent weeks, responded: "No."
This, of course, would be a major admission and misstep for a potential 2012 Republican candidate to make. Romney, like all the other GOP frontrunners, has called the federal government's individual mandate unconstitutional. How could he now be suggesting it shouldn't be repealed?
Asked by the Huffington Post to clarify his position, Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom clarified that, "yes," the former governor wants to repeal the individual mandate. "He believes the mandate is an issue best left to the states, and that it is wrong to impose a one-size-fits-all federal plan on the entire nation."
But on another front that Nikrad found problematic, Fehrnstrom conceded that Romney doesn't support a full repeal of Obamacare; just its more controversial provision.
"There are some aspects that make sense," said Fehrnstrom. "For instance, creating exchanges where people can shop for affordable private policies is a good idea, as is allowing individuals who purchase insurance on their own to use pre-tax dollars to pay their premium."
"But it's a mistake to impose higher taxes and to cut care to seniors. It's a mistake to institute a form of price control on insurance premiums," he added. "And it's a mistake to expand the reach of the federal government instead of allowing states to pursue their own health care solutions."
The partial repeal position is one that Romney shares, in theory, with others in the GOP tent, including NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.). But it is not something that will win him any plaudits within the party. Already, his position on health care reform is regarded skeptically by fellow GOPers who find Romney's defense that his health care plan in Massachusetts is fundamentally different from what Obama is doing nationally hard to swallow.
Romney has not done himself many favors with a twisting and difficult to follow defense -- in which he expresses pride for his reform proposals in Massachusetts while simultaneously denouncing the incorporation of those policies on a federal level. In an interview with Newsweek that was published on Monday, he called Obamacare the "Mr. Hyde" to his "Dr. Jekyll."
"They both have two arms and two legs, but they're very different creatures," he said.
But when asked about a statement he gave in February 2007, in which he said he hoped the Massachusetts plan would "become a model for the nation," Romney conveniently and falsely claimed he never made that statement.
"You're going to have to get that quote," he said. "That's not exactly accurate, I don't believe."