Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why I Skipped the Romney Health Care Speech

If you want good coverage of the policy stuff in Mitt Romney's big health care speech today, turn to Jonathan Cohn, who just posted, and Ezra Klein, who will soon  -- both of them live-tweeted, and they obviously know their stuff. But for the politics of it, you want to read Steve Kornacki this morning, who does an excellent job of laying out the case (that I've made, too, in the past, but not as well) for why the substance of Romney's remarks really isn't going to matter. Essentially, Kornacki points out that the movement conservative opposition to the substance of ACA wasn't really on policy grounds; it was a combination of general Republican opposition to health care reform plus the specific GOP choice to oppose anything Barack Obama proposed.

What that means is that Romney doesn't have a policy problem. If people want to support him, they will, and virtually any sort of song-and-dance will be sufficient to overcome the health care issue for him.

Now, it's very possible that Romney isn't going to win the support of very many important Republican groups for various other reasons, with abortion (and abortion-related issues) certainly #1 on that list (see Jamelle Bouie here; this is a point my brother, who is perhaps the leading Romney-watcher, has made for a long time). There's also the possibility that Republican elites are skittish of Romney because, accurately or not, they fear his religion will be poison with large numbers of GOP voters. It's even possible that unease with the Mittster over health care really will be the straw that broke the camel's back. But if that's the case it's because it is additional evidence that he's really Not One of Them, and that his various shifts have been surface efforts to disguise it -- and if all that is true, then once again it doesn't really matter how he plays it at this point.

I have no prediction on that, one way or another. I think he's a serious candidate who could win, but not an overwhelming frontrunner or anything like that. But I'm completely convinced that Kornacki is correct about the basic situation. It's not a policy problem. And therefore, the policy content of his speech just doesn't matter much.

[Restored after the Great Blogger Glitch of May 11-12]


  1. Jonathan,

    Not sure what it means to say he doesn't have a "policy problem.". This may be an opportunity for you to explain different ways to evaluate candidates based I'm policy and image and interests and so on from a poli sci perspective. But is it really true that Romney doesn't have a "health care problem" however you frame it? And if so, are you saying that it's like his religion and some people may have a hard time getting past it but there's no way to tweak it or substantially alter it? And if that's not what you're saying, then isn't the use of this issue against him by other Republicans a useful battering rod

  2. I wonder how the very harsh WSJ editorial (is there any other kind?) "Obama's Running Mate" fits into this. Could it be a signal that elite opinion-makers are already trying to derail him, or is it something that can get swept under the rug later if the elites decide that Romney is their best chance to capture the presidency?

  3. There can be many reasons for that. But this may be an opportunity for you to explain different ways to evaluate candidates based It is policy and image and interests and so on from a poli sci perspective.

  4. Romney could make the bold choice and say, "You know what, I did this in Massachusetts and I'm right." And, as he can no longer defeat the argument.


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