When Mitt Romney reached out his hand in Saturday night’s debate, offering to shake on a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry, you knew that moment would be the one that would stick. After all, people don’t watch the debates for dry discussions of policy. They want to see the candidates in unscripted moments, under pressure, in hopes they will reveal something about their character and personality. That bet offer was such a moment.
I’ll leave it to others to wrangle about what, if anything, that scenario told us about Romney and instead focus on the facts of the case. At issue was whether in his book “No Apology,” Romney had recommended the health-insurance mandate as a model to the rest of the country. Perry said he had; Romney said he hadn’t.
The folks at FactCheck.org and at Politifact have concluded that Perry would have lost that bet, but I’m not convinced. Here’s the original portion of Romney’s book, with the sentence in question highlighted, so you can judge for yourself:
It seems to me that Romney is indeed offering his approach as a model for the country, even as he makes clear that each state should be allowed to make that decision on its own. The fact that the sentence in question was altered in subsequent editions — it now reads “And it was done without government taking over health care,” leaving out any suggestion that others emulate it –suggests that Romney also recognized it was problematic.
In the end, the mandate issue probably won’t matter much to the outcome of the 2012 GOP primary process.
Absent a major reversal of fortune, the nominee is going to be either Romney or Newt Gingrich, and both men have an extensive public record of support for the individual mandate that they have been unable to convincingly explain away. Cme the general election, I’d wager that record will make it difficult for the Republican strategists to use the issue as aggressively as they had once planned.
– Jay Bookman