Obamacare will be Romney's savior
The former Massachusetts governor is increasingly looking to be the nominee. In the general election, all he need do is say he's against Obamacare.

Mitt Romney

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  • All Romney needs to do is say he's against #Obamacare - voters will vote against Obama, not for Romney

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  • Just one strong attack from Romney on #Obamacare is enough to take on the president @JonahNRO

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  • Voters were warned about 'right-wing crazies' but the primary is virtually over, and #Romney emerges ahead @JonahNRO

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It looks as if it's going to be Mitt Romney after all. With Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush endorsing the former Massachusetts governor last week, there aren't any white knights left to play the role of GOP savior.

But that news hasn't reached his competitors yet.

Psychoanalyzing the remaining competitors for why they are staying in the race is probably a fool's errand. Ron Paul has never worked under the assumption he might be the nominee, never mind the next president. Newt Gingrich often seems like he wants to shake his fist heavenward shouting, "Curse you, historical dialectic! You promised it would be me!" And while Rick Santorum clearly thinks he still has a chance, his dyspeptic personality often makes it seem that, like a character out of "Seinfeld," he's staying in the race out of spite.

But Santorum says otherwise, and one of his core arguments is that the author of "Romneycare" — the Massachusetts healthcare reform that was a precursor of sorts to "Obamacare," at least according to Barack Obama and his supporters — is unfit to take on the president in the general election.

"The broader bipartisan assumption that Romney will be hurt by Romneycare in the general election is deeply flawed." -- Jonah Goldberg

"Frankly, I think he will be destroyed by President Obama on this issue come the fall," Santorum toldCNN'sJohn King recently. "And it should be the biggest issue that helps us win this election. It will be turned into a negative under Mitt Romney." Indeed, throughout the debate season, Santorum and others constantly insisted that Romney can't attack Obamacare.

The funny thing is: Even as they were saying he can't attack Obamacare, Romney was — you guessed it — attacking Obamacare. Romney has been attacking Obamacare since its inception. "I'll stop it in its tracks on Day One!" he promises constantly on the stump.

Throughout this primary season, the urge to sound like pundits has been strong with some of the candidates, particularly Santorum and Gingrich — probably because they have been pundits. As a result they've imported a style of argumentation better suited for high school debate class. Yes, Romney might be inconsistent to attack Obamacare, at least on the mandate, but there's no basis in reality to say he "can't" attack it nonetheless.

Obama opposed the mandate vociferously when running against Hillary Rodham Clinton, but that didn't stop him from favoring it.

Moreover, the broader bipartisan assumption that Romney will be hurt by Romneycare in the general election is deeply flawed.

First of all, Obamacare is unpopular. That's why Democrats don't talk about it on the stump, and neither did Obama for a very long time — until the Supreme Court forced him to reacquire political ownership. If the court upholds the Affordable Care Act, Obama is not going to want to remind voters of his responsibility for an unpopular piece of legislation. If the court throws it out, Obama is not going to want to remind voters that his signature accomplishment — which distracted him from a bad economy and cost the Democrats the House — was so flawed that the court had to reject it. Either way, Obama will not be racing to talk about healthcare. But Romney will.

It's often said that Obama will respond to Romney's attacks by saying the mandate was based on Romneycare. Romney will respond, "Well, you did it wrong" and promise to repeal and replace the law. All the voters really need to know is that Romney is against Obamacare. Besides, Romney will have plenty of other lines of attack: the raid on Medicare, the rationing board, the tax hikes, the religious liberty issues, the creation of a vast new entitlement when the existing ones are crushing us with debt, etc.

Core Republican voters will vote against Obama, not for Romney. Polls show GOPers are more enthusiastic about voting in 2012 than Democrats. Meanwhile, the independents and moderates who dislike Obamacare but are not libertarians will most likely see Romneycare as evidence that Romney is not one of the right-wing crazies the "Today Show" keeps warning them about.

Democrats are truly comfortable only attacking Republicans as "extremists" of one flavor or another. But over the weekend Joe Biden tried attacking Romney for being too "flexible." That might have bite coming from the right in the primaries, but it looks as if the primaries are over.

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at AEI.

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About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

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    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

    Follow Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.


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