Mitt Romney and the changing tone of the GOP debate over health care

Anyone who wanted a look at the rapidly changing face of the health care debate had to go no farther than the packed chapel at Emory University on Tuesday night.

Its morphing countenance looks a lot like Mitt Romney, the once and future Republican presidential candidate, who that evening paid no attention to the maxim that one ought not to peak too early. Not a pew went unfilled.

Agendas crowded the chapel as well.

The official occasion was a book tour to peddle autographed volumes of “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.”

More informally, this was a reunion and refueling of Romney’s ’08 campaign team in Georgia. Team leaders sat on the front row. No book critics were in sight.

But this was also an opportunity for Romney to repackage Republican talking points for the post-passage debate over the new health care law.

Ten days after the history-making vote, GOP leaders are re-calculating where their message of “repeal and replace” will sell — and where it won’t.

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Emory/AP

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Emory/AP

No Republican can be more sensitive to the issue than Romney, who as governor in 2006, signed Massachusetts’ health care overhaul into law. Now that the dust has settled on President Barack Obama’s version, experts are calling one the progenitor of the other.

Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, advised both the Romney and Obama administrations on the topic. Romney “is in many ways the intellectual father of national health care reform,” the Boston Globe quoted Gruber as saying this week.

Romney distanced himself from his own health care overhaul during his presidential campaign. Even last month, he declared his plan and Obama’s as different as “night and day.”

But at Emory, Romney — perhaps having no other choice — embraced his own accomplishment. And acknowledged “a number of similarities” between the Massachusetts plan and the one passed by Congress.

“If you lose a job or change a job, you won’t lose your insurance. Everybody in Massachusetts is able to keep insurance throughout their life. It’s not taken away from them. So it’s portable,” Romney said.

“No. 2, you can’t be canceled if you have a pre-existing condition or if you become ill once you’re insured. So in that respect, it’s very similar,” the former governor said.

Romney had been introduced by Gov. Sonny Perdue, who days earlier had declared that “forcing people to purchase things they don’t want to purchase, I think, violates a constitutional right they have.”

But the former Massachusetts governor told the audience that government-mandated purchase of health care insurance is permissible — if the order comes from a state capital rather than Washington, D.C.

“There are people who — we call them free-riders — who say ‘I’m not going to be insured. If I have an accident or have a heart-attack, the government will pay for me,’” Romney said. “We say no more. You’ve got [the] responsibility, a personal responsibility, to get insured.”

For Romney, the key difference is federalism. “I like states being able to do what we did — not the federal government,” he said. The former governor also condemned Obama for raising taxes to accomplish his goal, accused the president of cutting Medicare, and of instituting price controls on the health care industry.

Romney said he favored court challenges of the type sought by Georgia’s governor. But his wording was carefully couched. “I can’t say what the right judicial strategy should be, for trying to stop or slow down Obamacare, or reverse it, in key aspects,” he said.

While most Republicans want the grassroot fires stoked for a strong November performance, Romney is playing the longer game — for ’12.

His speech was geared toward a GOP establishment that has seen trends come and go. Romney said nothing to offend the tea party movement, but neither did he cater to it.

He dismissed the opportunity to condemn the Federal Reserve as a conspirator’s black hole — “I don’t want it to go away” — and refused to answer, with a simple yes or no, whether he believed the United States was a Christian nation.

Romney may also be betting that, in 12 months time, the health care debate will have shifted toward something less toxic. Further from “whether,” and deeper into “how.”

“Is the politics good? I don’t know,” Romney said. “I think we’re past the time to worry about whether the politics are good or bad.”

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44 comments Add your comment


March 31st, 2010
7:04 pm

I quote something that made sense to me from another blog

“If someone is disingenuous then it’s Obama. If he was open to incorporating Republican ideas then why did he not ask for advice from one person who had implemented such a plan. The fact is that he was a passionate advocate of the public option and failed. He wants to score political points by saying that he always wanted a plan that was middle of the road. I agree that he’s a better ‘politician’ than Romney.
I do not favor either Obama or Romney. But as this debate unfurls, I sense that it’s taking the form where we are crucifying a Henry Ford who came up with a revolutionary but imperfect model T and glorifying a low-cost Asian copycat.
Romney was a public executive innovator who came up with non-price controlled exchange system with costs staying close to within a fraction of the state budget as projected.
The big question is why as Americans we have a guy who created everything is getting lambasted while the ‘politician’ impersonator sits in the president’s chair and leading the country. If the best that Obama can do is to copy Romney, I wonder who should the president be!

Audrey in Georgia

March 31st, 2010
7:48 pm

Poor Susan. Romney did not get enough votes. Duh!


March 31st, 2010
8:22 pm

Guys, the Tea Baggers, the Romneys and the Perdues are after one thing: get the health reform before the Roberts’ Supreme Court and reversed, then use that to point out Social Security and Medicare are “mandated” and thus, obviously, unconstitutional. These are evil people. And don’t bet that Roberts won’t walk the court off that cliff. (And states can mandate, but feds can’t? What is this man smoking these days? Just a heads up: all you folks who want repeal might doom yourself, or your parents, or both, to a life with no security and no health coverage. You know, like Robber Barons.


March 31st, 2010
8:25 pm

And, by the way, the more relevant religion question (obviously most of the Founding Fathers didn’t consider us a “Christian” nation) would be to ask him to explain his claim that Mormonism is a Christian religion … when Mormon theology totally rejects the Trinity. As little as I know about religion, I know that is the cornerstone of Christianity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.


March 31st, 2010
8:52 pm

Mitt Romney = Obama lite. Reminds me of the story of when Treasury Sec Jim Baker urged Ronald Reagan to raise taxes in ‘81 and Reagan replied, “If you really believed that, why are you here?” So Mitt, if you really believe in that Massachusetts snow job, why are you a Republican?


March 31st, 2010
8:56 pm

Mitt Romney is a joke. Period. He has flip flopped on every single issue. The man has no true convictions. He changes his tune to cater to whoever is standing before him.


March 31st, 2010
9:03 pm

Hospitals cannot refuse a patient. It does not matter whether that patient can pay for the services provided or not. In fact it does not matter if that patient is a citizen or not. Because of this law we all pay. Mitt is right that they are free loaders and health insurance reform only works if there is a mandate.


March 31st, 2010
9:05 pm

Diehard, You do know that Reagan raised taxes right? If not do some research, he simply shifted taxes so the middle class would pay more.


March 31st, 2010
9:48 pm

Once again, proud to see Georgia folks that aren’t hard core conservatives and pointing out the hypocrisy here. Just like the republicans blasting Obama today for opening oceans off the coast of Virginia to oil drilling (remember the “drill, baby, drill” signs at the RNC), Romney supports “do as I say, not as I do”. I think people are beginning to see the party of hypocrisy and “NO” here. I also agree with Sharecropper on his point of health care reform on a state level vs. federal – doesn’t make it right or wrong based where it happens, it either is or isn’t.

Wonder Twins Activate

March 31st, 2010
9:50 pm

Form of a racist,sexist,bigoted,homophobe and shape of a bucket of teabaggin’ water…

this is bs

March 31st, 2010
10:47 pm

To Wonder Twins Activate….what happened to “tolerance” might I ask???

96 SC

March 31st, 2010
10:54 pm

Romney aka “THE PLASTIC MAN” fits the mold of any vehicle that will have him e.c. a 1959 Nash Rambler. Beware the Boy is a LEMON


March 31st, 2010
11:03 pm

If liberals are so sure this bogus health care that passed was constitutional, why won’t they want the Supreme Court to look into it? With all the back room deals that have left so many people questioning the ethics of this administration, it seems only proper to have someone in one of the three branches of government, read the bill from cover to cover.


March 31st, 2010
11:32 pm

Did it ever occur to any of you that President Obama used the Health Care Massachusetts plan as a base because he wanted to quietly honor the late Senator Ted Kennedy? Wow, it ain’t that deep folks and I went to public school. LOL


March 31st, 2010
11:48 pm

Oh, I just didn’t understand! It is not socialism if the states do it but it is socialism if the feds do it.

Stephen P

March 31st, 2010
11:51 pm

The leaders of the country have a responsibility towards the people of that country, and that their decisions ultimately affect peoples lives. So if you pay no attention, and don’t vote or care, then you has no right to complain about what happens. If all you do when you pick up a paper is to read the horoscopes or the comics then you have shirked your responsibilities as a citizen to your country. A lot of people have never read the Declaration of Independence, Constitution or the Bill of Rights and We assume that the leaders have. We suppose trust in them because we assume they have been given the responsibility to look out for the Rights, Freedom and Liberties of WE THE PEOPLE. It is the job of every citizen in this country to question everything the government does or does not do. Most of the functions are done behind closed doors. You as a citizen should be asking WHY. You should take the time to find out what is going on. Be cause this affects WE THE PEOPLE. I want to know what is going on. WE have never had transparency in government, even though we have been promised that it was government by the people for the people. WE should demand it. Some argue that the government is run by special interest groups, and lobbyist, it is because we have allowed it. Some argue we are dependent on foreign oil, only because we have allowed it, when we have other alternatives in our own country.

If you have done your due diligence and have participated in the process by becoming informed and have asked WHY , and have not been given an answer, then as a citizen you must vote, you must have a dialogue with your representatives of government. If they do not give you answers, then you can say “I am mad as hell and am not going to take it anymore”. Do not play the blame game because you fell asleep. Watch them very closely, and try to prevent them for catering to special interest. It amazes me that a President can serve only eight years, but Senators and Congressmen can serve for life. AS citizens we should demand term limits on our representatives because they become complacent at their jobs an put forth their interests as opposed to what they should be doing serving the interest of the people rather than the special interest lobbyist they cater to..

If you feel left out, ask more questions. Because we are in it all together, because it is WE THE PEOPLE.

Alabama Communist

April 1st, 2010
12:06 am

As little as I know about religion, I know that is the cornerstone of Christianity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.* sharecropper

You certainy do! Have you consider changing to a new and amazing religion instead of believing in some cult religion that thinks Jesus is a masonic Knights Templar with rock in his head?


April 1st, 2010
12:11 am

Romney will say whatever it takes to get elected. He is the epitome of what is wrong in politics. The guy has flopped on every major issue especially the core ones of the GOP. While his business credentials are sound from private sector experience, do the American people want a President who probably put them in the unemployment line? Sorry Mitt. You should have run for something a little smaller than Prez to show us and prove to us you’ve “seen the light”. But Scott Brown thanks you that you didn’t.

Ocean of Wisdom

April 1st, 2010
6:33 am

Those wannabees who avoid the Federal Reserve AUDIT and Abolishment agenda are NOT to be trusted. RON PAUL 2012!


April 1st, 2010
6:53 am


So, what did Reagan do? (hint, he raised taxes)


April 1st, 2010
7:32 am

Romney has a good sense for real-world solutions. The problem is that he thinks he needs to hide his good sense to get the support of the hard right. That leads to everyone thinking he is a phony. And I guess in a way, that means he is a phony.

I was a Romney supporter until he started flip-flopping on everything. He is a much better business leader than politician.

i'm in love with sara palin

April 1st, 2010
8:14 am

will rommey take away the money obama gave the blacks an mexicos an give it back to us who work and aine getting tattoos an gold teeth all day long?

Jeff in ATL

April 1st, 2010
8:39 am

“Sonny Perdue, who days earlier had declared that ‘forcing people to purchase things they don’t want to purchase, I think, violates a constitutional right they have.’”

Perdue is a fool and needs a history lesson. The Second Militia Act of 1792 required all white males 18-45 to buy arms and supplies with their own money. George Washington signed the bill. I think Washington knows more about the Constitution than Sonny Perdue.

conservative democrat

April 1st, 2010
8:46 am

“Hospitals cannot refuse a patient.” This is true. So, the illegal day laborer who cuts off a limb and goes to the ER gets sewed up, right? But, the nay voters on Obamacare don’t want them to be able to buy into the insurance exchanges to help pay for it. Now, they want to claim there’s not enough money in the plan. Hipocrits!
Romney has been talking from both sides of his mouth so much that his head is spinning. Quick somebody call the exorcist! This guy is the antichrist.


April 1st, 2010
8:47 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

The Republican Way

April 1st, 2010
8:55 am

Hey “i’m in love with sara palin “…Romney may take it away, but you won’t get anything back fool. It goes where all good repub money goes….to the rich people that you obviously work for who have you thinking that you are one of them because you are White. Wake up Bubba!

i'm in love with sara palin

April 1st, 2010
9:07 am

i dont work for no one i got my own bissness with too bobcats an my own imployers an i own my own house that aine forclosed like the blacks houses. you must like it when they take your mony an give it too the blacks an mexicos an killin babys before they are borned but i am sick of it an will vote them out in november an take our county back. mark my words. an i am not rasist. my black imployers agree with me an they will vote for palin to. maybe you shood listen stead of running your mouth all day long an mixing the races.


April 1st, 2010
9:31 am

Reagan = We’re the greatest nation on face of the Earth.

Obama = I’m sorry. I know your people are starving, but we need to borrow some money because satellite TV and cell phones are too expensive so people can’t afford liposuction and breast implants. If you would give us a couple $Trillion, then we could look skinny like the people in your country.


April 1st, 2010
10:08 am

Spin it the way that sounds best to your audience.

conservative democrat

April 1st, 2010
10:12 am

Hey in love with Sarah,
Coldest state, hotest govnor…but you didn’t even spell her name right. From your post, it seems you must have been educated in a Georgia public school. I was wondering how you drive those too (sic) ‘Bobcats’ at the same time.
Palin really is qualified from an intellectual point of view, however.
She couldn’t even name a single publication from which she drew her opinions when asked by Katie Curic. Just em, uh, eh…she wouldn’t even have had an opinion if she hadn’t been coached by the handlers. She’s just an image with no depth. Just your type?

i'm in love with sara palin

April 1st, 2010
10:22 am

you cant read you conservitive demicrat. i said i have too bobcats an i have 10 imployers. i dont drive my bobcats i am the owner an i make sure the work of my imployers is done rite. i dont care about katie curic who is just a puppet for the blacks an obama who are rasist. palin an the tea party will take this county back an give it to real working americans like me an stop giving our money to the rappers and mexicos to pay for your deffasits.

Oh my gosh!

April 1st, 2010
10:39 am

how do you think you your district gets federal funding for roads, disaster relief, medical services, and education aide? Back room deals! Why don’t military bases close in your state? Back room deals! Learn a little about how our political system works. Politicians are brokers for their constituents and make deals for money to come to their state. That’s why so many act like they were against stimulus funds but showed up at ribbon cutting ceremonies. Stop acting like only Obama or democrats work the back room. We say we won’t transparency and truth, but as Jack would say “you can’t handle the truth”.

Oh my gosh!

April 1st, 2010
10:42 am

I’m in love with palin,

Slow down and take a deep breath. I understand how you might confuse ’s’ and ‘c’ because sometimes they sound alike.

i'm in love with sara palin

April 1st, 2010
10:49 am

thanks oh my gosh atlease you can see my side. people like you an me will take this county back. vote palin in november.

conservative democrat

April 1st, 2010
11:10 am

in love with Sarah,
Your neocon morons Rove, Cheney, and GW Bush had the run of things for eight years and ran our country into the ground. They tried to fight two wars and cut taxes simultaneously. It didn’t work out so good, uh?
You seem to revel in your lack of intellect. I bet you weren’t paying attention in school, especially history class. Georgia has a proud heritage of conservativism from Sam Nunn, Richard Russell, Gene Talmadge, etc. You should quit watch so much TV and go to the library sometime. You might learn something.
You an shinning example that any fool can buy a computer and watch Fox news. But, I haven’t read a single idea from you that would be worth my time reading. Sarah Palin is an intellectual midget.

i'm in love with sara palin

April 1st, 2010
11:19 am

conservative demicrat you need to spell check yourself and stop being a imbred. incase you didnt know bush is not president no more an rove is not either. obama an the other muslims are taking this county into armigeddin an you are actin like its a pick nick. your problem is anyone who disagrees about giving mony away to the blacks an mexicos an killing babies an not payin for there deffasits calls people names. you dont no your history son. why dont you read up on it an get back to me when you have something smart to say.


April 1st, 2010
1:12 pm

“Massachusetts got to universal health care because Romney worked with the Democrats who control the Legislature. Those Democrats ultimately stripped out Romney’s cost containment propositions. If they don’t have the political will to do what it takes to bring down costs, Romney will be proven right.”

Republican turned Democrat

April 1st, 2010
1:14 pm

Susan, if that is true and Romney didn’t agree with his cost containment measures being stripped out, why did he sign the bill into law? That sounds like a GOP cop-out to me and proves again the GOP unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions.

Look before I leap

April 1st, 2010
3:07 pm

Um, just curious “Im in love with sara…”
What office do you think Palin is running for in November?
(re your 10:49A post)

i'm in love with sara palin

April 1st, 2010
3:50 pm

she will be president an get obama out of congriss. we must vote an take back the county before armageddin dastroys the us of a. obama has given all our mony an deffasits to the blacks an allegal mexicons for doctors an well fare an he wants to take our guns away to. now i herd he wants to drill in verginna and everyone nos there is no oil there and its bad for the imviramint. i am tired of all the imbreded people looking for a handout from the whites. i pay my own bills an the blacks should pay theres to just like us whites do. mark my words she will win in november i seen the poles it is all over the inernet do a spell check and you will fine it

You Asked

April 1st, 2010
4:53 pm

I just adore the gratuitious cheap anti-mormon shots that Alabama Communist is taking because Romney happens to be LDS. Get educated and go to or ask a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints what they really believe. We do believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible (which makes us a Christian church) and that “secret underwear” is called a garment, it is white and it is a private reminder of our covenants including among other things modesty. I can imagine the infantile amusement you get from making fun of a Jewish Yalmuke or an Islamic headscarf.

Of course this thread is about politics not religion – so why don’t you say something substantive about health care?

I have a few other choice thoughts about your level of intelligence and the kind of person you are but my Mormon morals prevent me from using certain words in polite company.

You Asked

April 1st, 2010
5:07 pm

You have to be kidding me. Mormons are not against Obama (they tend to be conservative but they have plenty of Democrats, Libertarians, etc. among them – several Democratic senators and representatives are Mormon). They are certainly not against blacks – the church doctrine forbids discrimination and we teach that bigotry is not of Christ.

Of course you probably already know that and you are just using these forums to play mind games with people who buy into your white supremicist cracker act. Why don’t you take a break from the computer in your parents basement and go out and play? It’s a nice day.

Romney in 2012!

April 4th, 2010
5:37 pm

Mitt Romney has more credibility with the healthcare issue than any other Republican. The most effective criticism Democrats level is: Republicans are the “party of no” and when they’re in charge they never do anything relating to healthcare.

Democrats claim Republicans don’t care about people who lack, or lose, their health insurance.

They cannot say that about Mitt Romney and Scott Brown!

And conservative critics of the Massachusetts reform need to remember, Romney had to work with a legislature that was overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the state senate 30 to five (or something similar). Romney’s veto power was useless, utterly useless. So conservatives should cut him some slack!

Romney did two things: (1) demonstrated that he was aware of the need for healthcare reform, and (2) had a desire to actually do something about it.

That is why Romney is the man to defeat Obama in 2012!


April 13th, 2010
11:47 am

Mormons are not Christians. The book of Mormon is placed above the bible. Kind of like Islam and the Koran