Romney Breaks His Silence

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Until a media spree on Thursday Mitt Romney has been nowhere to be seen. This is surprising given the past few weeks' focus on health care should be the perfect moment for Romney to speak out.

The former Massachusetts governor is the only Republican to deliver universal health insurance coverage. Romney's status as a once-and-possibly-future presidential candidate keeps him relevant to the press. Not to mention he's well suited for TV because he's good looking and well spoken.

Yet Romney has shied away from attention lately. He's been largely absent from television and gave just one extensive interview to a print publication, which was a conservative magazine. Romney penned an opinion piece for a Colorado newspaper - on card check. When the health care debate hits its zenith this autumn Romney will speak to the Nebraska GOP, far away from the sites of the national press.

As Marc reported in June, Romney has risen to the top of the "2012 Invisible Primary" because he's "picking and choosing his battles." Evidently he's choosing to not fight President Obama on health care, even though such a fight would boost his visibility and endear him to Republicans. 

Such an endeavor would be risky for Romney. First, he could be attacked from the right (as he has been) for making it illegal for Massachusetts residents to not have health insurance. Second, he could wind up being boxed in with health care extremists. Third, he could ride the anger to nowhere given the primaries are years away.

Not only has Romney stayed out of the fray, he tried to stay above it, in a way. Romney didn't simply attack Obama, calling him a crypto-socialist, a liar, or a policy fool as many Republicans have done. Instead, Romney told Obama wasn't measuring up to a higher standard.

"He continues to campaign, but what we really need right now is a president and the leadership of a president that works in a bipartisan basis that fashions a bill that improves our health care system...."
 
However, the former governor told Sean Hannity on the radio that expanding government's involvement in the parts of the medical system that it isn't already present is "antithetical to everything that's American." Notwithstanding, Romney didn't sound different on Obama on Hannity than he did on CBS.

Romney said Obama should have presented his own ideas to the public instead of having his health care agenda hijacked by liberals in Congress. In other words, Obama isn't at fault as much as Nancy Pelosi is for the health care plans. Romney's TV interview lacked the explosive quotes that have punctuated other high-profile Republicans' forays into the health care debate, like Sarah Palin's "death panels."

As unexciting as Romney's approach has been, it carries less risk for him as a potential presidential candidate as there would be if he climbed onto the back of the right-wing backlash as if it were a tiger. After all, those who ride tigers may one day find themselves inside.

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Justin Miller was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 to 2011. He is now the homepage editor at New York magazine. More

Justin Miller was a associate editor at The Atlantic. Previously he was an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics, a political reporter in Ohio, and a freelance journalist.
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