WASHINGTON -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had some kind words for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in a new interview, despite previously criticizing the Massachusetts health care legislation he signed into law.
"Governor Romney's made very clear that he favors absolute repeal of Obamacare and that he believes it's not accurate and not fair to try and compare the two," said Gingrich in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, "and I think you have to start with that. And I also think, in all fairness to Governor Romney, that he vetoed many provisions that the liberal Democrats in the Massachusetts state legislature added to the bill, and they overrode his veto. So I think if you're going to go back and look at the original Romney bill you'd have a much better bill and a much more practical bill than what the liberal Democrats did to the legislation because they literally overrode his veto on a whole series of items."
When Brody asked whether, therefore, the comparison between the Massachusetts law and federal health care reform is not as clear cut as people may believe, Gingrich agreed. "Yeah," he replied. "I think it's not but that will be part of the dialogue."
One person who has compared the Massachusetts law and federal health reform is Gingrich himself. In April, he said -- without specifically mentioning Romney -- "It's the forerunner of Obamacare. 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."
The Massachusetts health care law has become a bit of an albatross around Romney's neck as he considers a 2012 president run, with other possible contenders like Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) saying he needs to repudiate it, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) saying the "Massachusetts experience" is not one he would "want for the country to follow any further."
Romney has gone back and forth between defending the state's health care law and distancing himself from it. In March, he seemed to make the case for the individual mandate, a major component of both the federal and Massachusetts law -- but also one that has been demonized by conservatives. In 2008, in fact, Romney said, "I like mandates. The mandates work."
Additionally, while Gingrich is now saying that the Massachusetts law doesn't totally reflect Romney's plan, the former governor said he stood behind it in March and praised the fact that Democrats were involved in passing it: "I like what we have in Massachusetts, despite some flaws. But what I see in Obamacare is a very different piece of legislation -- and one that followed a very different track. In our case, our bill was carried out in a bipartisan basis."
The only thing that has remained consistent, it seems, is Gingrich and Romney's agreement that they dislike the Affordable Care Act.