In wake of his 12-point defeat in the South Carolina primary (which no previous Republican nominee has lost), Mitt Romney’s principal challenge is to convince Republican primary voters that he shares their core convictions and concerns. Above all, he needs to convince them that he shares their determination to repeal every last one of the 2,700 pages of Obamacare.
Newt Gingrich unequivocally lists repealing Obamacare as his top legislative priority and has added that he would make repeal “the campaign theme in September and October.” Rick Santorum says that “the most important issue that this country is dealing with right now” is “the robbing of our freedom because of Obamacare.” But Romney hasn’t described Obamacare, or the need for its repeal, in such resounding terms.
Indeed, it’s hard to tell what, exactly, Romney strongly dislikes about President Obama’s signature legislation. He has repeatedly (and rightly) criticized the fact that Obamacare was passed at the federal level, rather than leaving such matters to the states or to the people. Additionally, during the final South Carolina debate he said, “I think we’re going to be able to convince some Democrats that when the American people stand up loud and clear and say, we do not want Obamacare, we do not want the higher taxes, we do not want a $500 billion cut in Medicare to pay for Obamacare, I think you’re going to see the American people stand with our president and say, let’s get rid of Obamacare.”
But is this really all that’s wrong with Obamacare? Is it really just another tax hike? Would it really be okay if only it didn’t so shamelessly pilfer from Medicare? Apart from its being an affront to federalism, Romney seems to suggest that his primary objection to Obamacare is the way that it’s funded.
Most Americans, and especially most Republicans, have reasons for opposing Obamacare that go far beyond this. They rightly view Obamacare as a grave threat to our fiscal solvency, to our economy, to the quality of our health care, and, above all, to our liberty. Obamacare would still pose these threats whether or not it raised taxes or raided Medicare. It would still pose them —albeit not to the same degree — even if it (or something similar to it) were adopted on a state-by-state basis.
More specifically, Americans oppose Obamacare because of its individual mandate; its substantial expansion of Medicaid; its government-run insurance “exchanges,” which would feature huge transfers of money from taxpayers, through the government, to private insurers; and its increased access to taxpayer-subsidized abortion. Yet, to one degree or another, Romney’s Massachusetts health care law — which he still stands by — shares each of these features.
Repealing Obamacare requires someone who’s willing to champion repeal, talk about it, and make the case for it. It requires someone who plainly believes in repeal, who’s willing to make it his principal cause, and who rightly regards it as an essential element in preserving the Founders’ commitment to limited government and liberty. At the very least, it requires someone whose reasons for disliking Obamacare are readily apparent.
Romney’s core challenge is to convince Republican voters, and particularly Tea Party voters (only one in six of whom is currently supporting him), that he fits this description.