Jim DeMint's Revisionist History of Obamacare

"Because of Romney and Romneycare, we did not litigate the Obamacare issue."

South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint speaks at the Voters Values Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington on September 17, 2010. (National Journal)

As Jim DeMint sees it, Republicans were hamstrung from truly campaigning against the Affordable Care Act in last year's election because of ... Romneycare.

"Because of Romney and Romneycare, we did not litigate the Obamacare issue," he told Bloomberg Businessweek in a story published Thursday.

At first glance, DeMint is making a valid point and he's certainly not alone in making it. As Slate's Dave Weigel points out, Rick Santorum often told his audiences that Romney was "the single worst Republican to run on the issue of Obamacare."

But there are also a few problems with that statement. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney spearheaded reforms that served as a model for the Affordable Care Act, but that certainly didn't stop him from campaigning aggressively against Obama's signature legislation.

In last year's campaign Romney repeatedly vowed to repeal Obamacare on day one of his presidency. For any doubters, here's the video:

Perhaps DeMint, the former GOP senator who left Capitol Hill this year to head up the Heritage Foundation, meant other Republicans were afraid to drive home the message, or as he put it "litigate"? Well, here's what Rep. Paul Ryan, then the Republican veep nominee, had to say:

"The American people will be the judge and jury on this law come November." Usually a verdict comes after litigation, and Ryan made clear he wasn't settling for the Supreme Court's verdict.

That election has long since come and gone, and Romney lost — but not because Republicans failed to campaign against the Affordable Care Act. The American people have made their verdict on Republican repeal efforts quite clear: Americans say congressional Republicans should accept that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land by a margin of 50 percent to 43 percent, according to a Sept. 20-23 Bloomberg poll.

They "screwed it up beyond belief, and now they want to go back to nothing," John Beck, a 57-year-old libertarian Republican from Austin, Texas, told Bloomberg.

Yet DeMint, who's been in the vanguard of the movement to defund the 2010 health care law, appears to be rolling straight ahead with his talking points. As recently as August he was telling supporters as part of Heritage Action's nine-city "Defund Obamacare" tour that President Obama may actually sign a bill that guts his signature legislative achievement.

Reality check: as recently as last week Obama reiterated that he won't back down from efforts to block or delay the implementation of his health care law. He called Republican threats to tie the issue to raising the nation's debt ceiling "blackmail."

"The Affordable Care Act is here to stay," the president said at a community college in Largo, Md., a suburb of Washington. "I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States."

Then there's the fact that DeMint actually supported Romney in part because of Romney's health care accomplishments as governor of Massachusetts. Here's part of an interview with Byron York in the National Review (my emphasis added):

"He has demonstrated, when he stepped into government in a very difficult state, that he could work in a difficult partisan environment, take some good conservative ideas, like private health insurance, and apply them to the need to have everyone insured," DeMint says. "Those kind of ideas show an ability to bring people together that we haven't seen in national politics for a while. We don't need the nation to be more polarized."

That's where he was in 2007. It's been an interesting "evolution."