Mitt Romney can raise $10.5 million in one day. He has a big campaign organization and a national network of supporters and he's tall and nice-looking former governor with a full head of hair. He should be a strong candidate to challenge President Obama in 2012, except for one thing: He signed Romneycare into law, a health care overhaul that features a mandate that individuals buy health insurance, a feature of Obama's health care plan that Republicans despise. Explaining his embrace of the individual mandate is Romney's biggest challenge in the primaries. But Romney's not the only one with an individual mandate skeleton in his closet. Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and, Politico's Ben Smith unearthed Friday, Tim Pawlenty all have varying levels of support for the measure in their pasts.
Just after he was reelected in 2006, when he was governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty gave a speech detailing his health care plan, which "surprised many health care officials and questioned the effectiveness of health insurance companies," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported at the time. Pawlenty said he was "open to" getting universal coverage with the help of a Massachusetts-style mandate, adding, "I think a mandate by itself is potentially helpful, but is not an answer by itself."
When he was Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich fiercely fought Hillary Clinton's health care plan. Republicans offered their own plan--one with an individual mandate. Earlier this month, Fox News' Greta van Susteren asked Gringrich why he backed the idea in 1993. Gingrich struggled to explain it:
"No, no. I'm saying that 18--imagine this in your own case. I'm saying that you see a 20-second clip from 18 years ago when you were fighting Hillarycare and when virtually everybody in the conservative movement was united in trying to stop Hillarycare.
Now, nobody at that time was talking about the 10th Amendment. Nobody at that time was talking about this kind of constitutional issues. But to jump from that and say, gosh, if Newt said this in 1993, he must be for Obama--skipping, by the way, 2 1/2 years of active consistent opposition to Obamacare? I mean, I think the kind of amnesia that Washington gets into is, frankly, silly.
As governor of Utah in 2008, Huntsman signed into law a health care plan that did not include a mandate. But that's not because he didn't want one, the Huffington Post's Jason Cherkis and Jon Ward report. It was the state legislature that kept the mandate out of the bill (though Huntsman disputes this version of events). Cherkis and Ward spoke to David Sundwall, Huntsman's health department head at the time, who was part of a group the governor's convened to draft a reform plan. They decided a mandate was necessary, and Huntsman agreed:
"He was supportive," Sundwall said. "It was something he would have liked to have happened."
But, he said, "we ran into a brick wall." The obstacle he referred to was Utah's Republican speaker of the House, Greg Curtis. "I met with him in his office and he laid down the parameters," Sundwall recalled. "We pitched the idea of the mandate. And that was not going to fly, according to the speaker."
"We would have liked everyone to have had insurance. … And a mandate would have worked."