At long last, Romney defended and touted and bragged about the singular political and policy accomplishment of his tenure as Massachusetts governor: the health care system reform that provides every resident there with insurance. Watching him at other debates, it was easy to get the sense that he wasn’t sure how to integrate his Massachusetts experience into his campaign narrative. The plan itself was written with the help of Heritage Foundation experts but it did not, in the end, comport with every conservative principle.
But it stands out as an prime example — perhaps the ultimate example — of conservative governance. Romney worked hard at health care in Massachusetts; he worked with Democrats; he worked with Republicans; he wound up with a novel program that, while not perfect and not transferable to other states, stands out as a real accomplishment. Romney calls himself an executive and a manager; with health care, he executed and managed in real time. At their Michigan debate, Republicans seemed a bit reality-deaf and barely acknowledged the sense of economic dislocation that middle class Republicans feel; Tonight, Romney demonstrated that, given the right scenario, he can connect with those voters better than just about any candidate up there.
His best moment may have been when he said that an insurmountable problem like the health care crisis can, indeed, be solved. It wasn’t just a candidate saying he was optimistic; he showed how optimism, will and plod can be potent problem-solving forces.