During the 2012 presidential campaign, one of the most common questions about Mitt Romney was how he could serve as the Republican party's standard bearer when the party's biggest domestic policy priority was repealing Obamacare. After all, Romney has shepherded his own health care reform plan into law in Massachusetts during his time as the state's governor. That plan had served as the model for the national law, according to Obamacare's designers and top officials in the Obama administration.
Romney tried his best to distance himself from Obamacare by playing up distinctions between the Massachusetts plan and the federal law, and directing sharp criticism atthe president's plan. At one even giving an extended speech, with PowerPoint, contrasting the two plans, in which he forcefully rejected Obamacare, calling it a "government takeover of health care," an "economic nightmare," and a form of "big government."
His two-step defense of his own plan and attack of the federal plan never quite worked, and always felt a little bit grudging. While he never quite said it directly, he seemed to actually believe that both laws were essentially good ideas, and that the real problem with Obamacare wasn't really the law itself, but who was in charge of running it.
These days, Romney, who briefly considered another presidential run earlier this year, is more inclined to be clear about his opinion. Speaking at a funeral for Thomas Stemberg, a Romney supporter and founder of the Staples office supply chain, Romney praised Stemberg's push for the Massachusetts law and tied it directly to the federal health care overhaul. Via The Boston Globe:
Romney also credited Mr. Stemberg with persuading him to push for health care reform in Massachusetts when he was governor.
Romney said that shortly after he was elected, Mr. Stemberg asked him why he ran for governor. Romney said he told him that he wanted to help people, and Mr. Stemberg replied that if he really wanted to help, he should give everyone access to health care, which Romney said he hadn't really considered before.
"Without Tom pushing it, I don't think we would have had Romneycare," Romney said. "Without Romneycare, I don't think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn't have health insurance."
By connecting the Massachusetts law with the federal law, Romney is implicitly giving himself credit for Obamacare, and in the process confirming that his previous criticisms of the president's health law were as strained as cynical as they appeared to be.