Expect more of this from Republican presidential hopefuls as the 2012 campaign gets fully underway: Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who has been considering a White House bid for some time now, took a jab at Mitt Romney's health care record over the weekend.
Santorum told The Boston Globe:
"The issues, unfortunately, don't line up particularly well for Governor Romney this time, particularly with health care being front and center on the stage," Santorum said in an interview, before speaking to a Roman Catholic group.
"I feel we need someone who is a strong, principled conservative who believes not in government mandates, not in government control of the health care system, but in a patient-centered approach to health care," Santorum said.
In the daily--or, in some cases, hourly--swipefest that is a presidential primary, Mitt Romney's support for an individual mandate in Massachusetts will probably be brought up again and again. Mike Huckabee bashed the Massachusetts law in a book he published last month.
Romney has dealt with a similar problem before: In the 2008 primary, he faced criticism over his abortion stance, which had turned from pro-choice to pro-life since he left heavily Democratic Massachusetts. Romney explained that he had always opposed abortion, even when he was "effectively pro-choice" as governor of Massachusetts. Romney lasted longer than most of his competitors in 2008, so his explanation seemed to work.
Romney has stood by the Massachusetts health care law. His team has consistently countered that the Massachusetts law may not work for every state and that the Obama-signed federal law is a bad idea because it's a "one-size-fits-all plan."
Responding to Huckabee's criticism, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told Politico last month:
"Mitt Romney is proud of what he accomplished for Massachusetts in getting everyone covered," Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Boston Globe, in the first direct response Team Mitt made to Huckabee's criticism of the health plan in his new book. ...
"What's important now is to return to the states the power to determine their own healthcare solutions by repealing Obamacare," Fehrnstrom added. "A one-size-fits-all plan for the entire nation just doesn't work."
It's been said that if the Supreme Court rules the individual mandate unconstitutional, as it considers the (relatively) new federal health care law, Romney's chances at the White House will be sunk. So far, Romney's team has been consistent in how it's responded; if that changes, it could mean the former Massachusetts governor sees the law he signed as a more serious liability.