So, I have already reviewed the policy aspect of Mitt Romney’s health care plan. Basically, I think it is reasonable, but he is playing "hide the ball" with the money. It has to come from somewhere and he is leaving the "where" up to the states. Fine.
Now the next question is the politics. GraniteGrok has noted that Romney has to back away from what he did in MA with Ted Kennedy. The optics — with the mandatory YouTube example — are bad several different ways. First, Romney spent a lot of time attacking "McCain-Kennedy" to get the link with Kennedy out there. Now Romney has a link too. Second, while everyone wants the gridlock to end, for conservatives that means that they win. Compromising with Ted Kennedy — and indeed getting praised by Kennedy — doesn’t help.
So how does he do that? Basically, he abandons the mandate. Now this is clever politics. Conservatives hate the mandate. And the argument that the policy is smoke-and-mirrors without a revenue stream will be hard to explain. After all, there wasn’t a revenue stream in Massachusetts, why would you need one everywhere else? (note that this is the same fraud that minimum wage politics is based on. A minimum wage isn’t a tax because it is a mandate on private activity.) Furthermore, because there are so few specifics, it will be hard to score this and say, "Romney’s health care plan will cost XXXXX." It will make it hard for Republicans to attack him. So, as primary election politics goes, it is phony but clever. (What would you have expected from Mitt?)
This serves him well in a general too. As FactCheck.org has noted:
Kenneth E. Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University, has analyzed the costs of the Edwards and Obama plans. In reading those and the Massachusetts plans, the similarities are clear, and Thorpe says the Obama and Romney plans are “virtually identical.” Both call for an insurance exchange (an entity that would offer various private insurance plans to the public), and they offer financial assistance to low-income people.
So if a Democrat attacks Romney, correctly, for playing fast-and-loose with numbers, Romney will have a defense. "See there’s Hillary Clinton telling you what you should be doing with your own money." And he can say that his plan was supported by Ted Kennedy (again, Kennedy will object that rich people should pay!!!, again helping Romney) and virtually identical with Barack Obama’s. How can that not be good?
In other words, if Romney can get this policy, with its hidden tax increase on someone, through the primary, it will serve him very well in the general. And the way that he has framed this makes it very hard to see the tax increase.