Michael Warren of The Weekly Standard:
If Monday night’s GOP presidential debate is any indication, Romneycare may not be the liability it once was for Mitt Romney. The former Bay State governor took fewer punches on the issue than before and seemed to have absorbed most of the blows.
So where was the criticism of Romney’s health care policy this time around? Since Romney entered the presidential race earlier this year, his positions on Romneycare and Obamacare have been pretty well flushed out. Sure, there are Republicans who won’t vote for Romney because of Romneycare—but they’ve probably already made up their minds. Even this early in the process, spending debate time criticizing Romneycare may have diminishing marginal returns.
Additionally, Romney’s defense, regardless of its merits, is more fluid than it was. The candidate, often criticized for his rigidity, has become more comfortable in discussing what is arguably his biggest weakness in the Republican primary. “The people of Massachusetts favor our plan by three to one,” Romney said in Monday’s debate. “And states can make their own choices. I’m happy to stand up for what we did.”
Romney has become more skillful, too, at shifting the focus of the health care debate away from the past and toward his policy proposals for the future. Answering a question about bringing down the cost of health care—as opposed to health insurance—Romney explained how the costs of care are hidden from consumers. “The person who receives care in America generally doesn’t care how much it costs, because once they’ve paid their deductible, it’s free,” he said. “And the provider, the more they do, the more they get paid. We have something that’s not working like a market, it’s working like a government utility.”
Romney’s decision early on not to disavow Romneycare certainly cost him credibility with an element of the Republican base, many of whom were already wary of the former governor after his failed effort to court conservatives in 2008. But recent attacks on Romney’s health care positions just don’t seem to be sticking like his opponents had hoped. And he seems to have helped himself entirely by sticking up for repealing Obamacare every step of the way.