In 2009, Mitt Romney had a problem. He was running for the Republican presidential nomination, and the towering achievement of his governorship in Massachusetts — health-care reform — had been embraced by President Obama. Romneycare played almost no role in Romney’s 2008 presidential run, but the emergence of the issue onto the national agenda threatened to link Romney with a president Republicans had already come to loathe.

His solution was simple. He seized upon the one major difference between his plan and Obama’s, which was that Obama favored a public health insurance option. The public plan had commanded enormous public attention, and Romney used to it frame Masscare as a conservative reform relying on private health insurance, and against Obama’s proposal to create a government plan that, Romney claimed, would balloon into a massive entitlement. Andrew Kaczynski collects several televised appearances and one op-ed in which Romney holds up Masscare as a national model.

This tactic backfired when Obama had to jettison the public plan, and Republicans came to focus on the individual mandate as the locus of evil in Obamacare. What was once a Republican idea in good standing was now, suddenly, unconstitutional and the greatest threat to freedom in American history.

This left Romney in an awkward spot.

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