The EFM Feature

I almost always enjoy reading The New Republic. Yes, they’re on the Left. No, they don’t like many Republicans. But they’re thoughtful, generally insightful, and usually interesting. It’s a good practice to read the best expression of the opposing point of view.
This week, Ed Kilgore posted an early analysis of the 2012 race, with an emphasis on Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Here’s his main take on Mitt:

If Romney runs in 2012, much of the field will be positioned to his right, and he is likely to become the default-drive candidate of what’s left of the moderate wing of the GOP. This is not a very comfortable place to be, given the rightward trajectory of the party, and Romney has two problems in particular: His unrepentant support for TARP, and above all, his championship of a health reform initiative in Massachusetts that shares many features with the current demon of the conservative imagination, Obamacare.
Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent demand that Romney repudiate his Massachusetts health care plan is just the first thump of an endless drumbeat which will play all the way to 2012, a period during which Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare will be featured on Fox News every day and night. If Romney persists in making convoluted distinctions between the two plans, he will simply draw more attention to his problem. If he finally bends at the knee and disavows his own proudest domestic policy achievement, he will add another chapter to his long history of flip-flops. Like Jonathan Chait, I don’t think Romney can get out of this trap, particularly if his main credential is that establishment Republicans, the ‘lamestream media,’ and Democrats think he’s the sanest Republican option.

I’m going to agree and disagree. I agree that opponents will attack the Governor for his health plan, but I think the resonance of the attack will depend greatly on the economy. If we’re still at more than 9% unemployment, the country will be absolutely desperate for economic relief. At that point, the Governor’s best response is quite simple: “The country’s suffering, I’ve turned around every significant enterprise I’ve ever run, and I’m the guy who can get America back to work. I’ll defund or repeal Obamacare until we fix our economy, then we’ll come back and do reform the right way.”
In fact, isn’t that one of the least-talked about aspects of Massachusetts health care reform? He inherited a state in economic crisis, balanced the budget without raising taxes, created the conditions for job growth and then — and only then — tackled healthcare in a bipartisan manner.
Imagine if that was Obama’s story. Imagine if he had worked on the fiscal/economic crisis until it was fixed, facilitated job growth, then genuinely reached across the aisle to draft health reform legislation. The political world would be very different — as would the health care bill.


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