I was talking to a young Democratic political operative Friday night and I think I scandalized him by saying I voted for Mitt Romney as Massachusetts governor in 2002. Worse, I told him I felt I had nothing to apologize for—Romney was an effective governor on a variety of fronts and helped shepherd a historic universal health insurance coverage bill into existence. This has been a boon to the previously uninsured population of the state, and as a great post by a Fred Baeur (who seems to be a pro-Romney Republican) details it’s been impressively successful at restraining the growth of insurance premiums.
Something I wonder about is whether the strange mirror universe that is the Romney campaign will be able to afford to admit how well RomneyCare is working? After all, Romney’s signature policy achievement as governor of Massachusetts is very similar to President Obama’s signature policy achievement. RomneyCare and ObamaCare share a fundamental structure. That’s not a coincidence. On ideological terms, a compromise between a moderate New England Republican and an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature is bound to look pretty similar to a compromise between the liberal and moderate wings of the Democratic Senate caucus. And in practical terms they’re both responding to the same set of cross-presssures—a desire to achieve universal coverage in a way that’s acceptable to incumbent provider interests without creating a totally unsustainable cost situation. The result, both in Massachusetts and nationally, is a bit of an ugly kludge. But it’s working pretty well in Massachusetts, and the fact that it’s working pretty well in Massachusetts gives us confidence that it will work pretty well on a national level. But does Romney want to cite that as evidence of his policy acumen? I think we’ve seen that Team Obama is comfortable with emphasizing the similarities, since it tends to make Romney squirm, but the fact is that when it comes time for Romney to talk about his record as governor this is really the main thing he can point to. So will he?