Mitt Romney is Proud to be the Godfather of ObamaCare, Which He Assures You He Wants to Kill

Last time the White House
accused Mitt Romney of being ObamaCare’s godfather, the GOP
presidential nominee responded with murder on his mind. “If I’m the
godfather of this thing,” he
, “then it gives me the right to kill it.” Which I suspect
most would agree is an unusual interpretation of what it means to
be a godfather, but we’ll let that pass for the moment.

Recently, he’s addressed the godfather label in a way that comes
across as a little less stabby. “I have experience in health care
reform,” he
in Miami this week. “Now and then the president says I’m
the grandfather of Obamacare. I don’t think he meant that as a
compliment but I’ll take it.” A contradiction? A reversal? Maybe
he’s just so proud of his legislative godchild/grandchild that he
can’t wait to kill it?

It’s more like another admission that Romney still really likes
the health care plan he passed in Massachusetts, despite that
plan’s role as the model for the president’s national health policy
overhaul. And it’s a sign, perhaps, that Romney would prefer to
tweak ObamaCare than take it down.

Even though he doesn’t talk about it much, Romney’s love of his
health plan has been a defining part of his campaign. As Noam
in The New Republic, Romney picked his top
strategist, Stuart Stevens, in large part because Stevens was the
only GOP campaign guru who didn’t advise him to disown the
Massachusetts health care plan. Personnel is policy, and a
candidate’s choice of chief strategist is a central decision in any
major campaign. This tell us a lot about how he much he likes his
health care plan: Romney was apparently willing to both ignore the
advice of virtually every Republican political strategist and stake
his campaign’s future on his abiding pride in RomneyCare.

Indeed, RomneyCare is one of the few policies that Romney has
fought to defend throughout his campaign. That defense has been
subtle; he doesn’t often talk about the Massachusetts system. But
he’s consistently insisted on making
the case for it
, despite professional advice to the contrary,
constant criticism from members of his own party, and a deep
skepticism of the plan from the conservative base. It’s cost him a
lot, in other words, and yet he’s stuck with it anyway.

Does this sound like someone deeply invested in repealing
ObamaCare as president? Given the similarities between the plans
and Romney’s multiple early suggestions that RomneyCare could be a
model for the nation, I remain skeptical that he would make any
signficant effort to repeal the law. Perhaps if it came to his desk
he would sign it. But I also wouldn’t be shocked to find him
working behind the scenes to postpone or even avoid repeal.

Part of his argument could be
that that ObamaCare wouldn’t be as bad with him in charge. Unlike
Obama, he’d work closely with Republican governors and legislators
to make the plan less onerous, more amenable to various GOP
interests. That would be consistent with the approach taken by
Romney’s transition team head, Michael Leavitt, who has spent
the last few years telling states
that they should set up the
health insurance exchanges called for by ObamaCare — and then
charging them to consult on exchange implementation once they
agree. It would also be consistent with
Romney’s promises to allow state-based waivers
to ObamaCare
until the point when, or if, a repeal bill arrives at the White
House. There are serious problems with Romney’s plans to let states
off the hook via the law’s waiver provision (namely that the law
currently doesn’t allow state waiver plans to kick in until
). But I don’t doubt that a Romney administration would
pursue implementation flexibly.

Indeed, a plan that relied on implementation tweaks would fit
well with Romney’s general view of the Obama administration, which
is not that the president’s policies were bad but that they were
and managed poorly
. And it would line up quite nicely with
Romney’s recent
that “there are a number of things that I like
about health care reform that I’m going to put in place.” I don’t
doubt that Romney is proud to be ObamaCare’s godfather. But I think
he’d be even happier as its stepdad.