Why Mittcare Makes Mitt Romney An Ineffective Presidential Candidate

It’s no secret that I take a very dim view of Mitt Romney . If you want to know why, here’s a 2007 piece I wrote called The Conservative Case Against Mitt Romney.

Still, back in 2007, I generally considered Romneycare to be a political positive for Mitt.

Mitt should be talking health care all the time. It’s a hot issue, he has done something with it before, and nobody else is addressing it very effectively.

That’s not because I liked the program. It honestly didn’t turn out to be all that big of an issue one way or another in Mitt’s candidacy. The program was, however, new; it hadn’t completely fallen apart at that time, and it gave Mitt a significant achievement in an area where Democrats were usually more trusted by the public. So, like him or not, it made sense for Mitt to talk it up.

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The problem is that now, three years later, Mittcare has turned out to be a pair of cement boots in the middle of the ocean, not just for the state of Massachusetts, but for Mitt’s presidential hopes.

Here’s a Joseph Rago in the Wall Street Journal starting to explain that statement,

President Obama said earlier this year that the health-care bill that Congress passed three months ago is “essentially identical” to the Massachusetts universal coverage plan that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law in 2006. No one but Mr. Romney disagrees.

As events are now unfolding, the Massachusetts plan couldn’t be a more damning indictment of ObamaCare. The state’s universal health-care prototype is growing more dysfunctional by the day, which is the inevitable result of a health system dominated by politics.

…Sure enough, the five major state insurers have so far collectively lost $116 million due to the rate cap. Three of them are now under administrative oversight because of concerns about their financial viability. Perhaps Mr. Patrick felt he could be so reckless because health-care demagoguery is the strategy for his fall re-election bid against a former insurance CEO.

The deeper problem is that price controls seem to be the only way the political class can salvage a program that was supposed to reduce spending and manifestly has not. Massachusetts now has the highest average premiums in the nation.

In a new paper, Stanford economists John Cogan and Dan Kessler and Glenn Hubbard of Columbia find that the Massachusetts plan increased private employer-sponsored premiums by about 6%. Another study released last week by the state found that the number of people gaming the “individual mandate”–buying insurance only when they are about to incur major medical costs, then dumping coverage–has quadrupled since 2006. State regulators estimate that this amounts to a de facto 1% tax on insurance premiums for everyone else in the individual market and recommend a limited enrollment period to discourage such abuses. (This will be illegal under ObamaCare.)

It’s bad enough that Mitt’s signature achievement as a governor has turned into a disaster on the scale of the Hindenburg. That fact alone would give voters a good reason to be very wary of him as a candidate.

But here’s the real kicker: If Mitt’s the nominee, it will take the biggest winning issue the GOP has in 2012 completely off the table.

If Mitt’s the nominee, he won’t be able to effectively criticize Obamacare because the Democrats will effectively argue that he passed a very similar plan on the state level in Massachusetts. Now, Mitt can argue that it’s the fault of Massachusetts Democrats that it turned out to be such a trainwreck. He can also argue that a program like that should be implemented on the state level, not the national level.

The problem is that no one is going to buy it. When Romney tries to go after Obamacare, the public’s not going to care about the finer points of what he’s saying. All they’re going to hear is someone who helped engineer a program like Obamacare on the state level taking shots at a similar program that’s identified with Democrats. They’re not going to buy it.

Even before Mittcare blew up, Romney was a very weak candidate who only gathered steam because he ended up being the last ditch alternative to John McCain. Now, he’s even weaker than he was in 2008 and if he were to get the nomination, he’d be the most unelectable candidate run by a major party since George McGovern.

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