Political Animal


November 15, 2011 12:30 PM GOP voters ‘rule out’ mandate supporters

By Steve Benen

Nationwide, most Americans are comfortable with a requirement to have health care insurance. But among Iowa Republicans, a new Bloomberg poll shows health care mandates remain very unpopular.

One area where [Mitt] Romney, 64, is vulnerable is his backing as governor support of a health insurance mandate in Massachusetts that is similar to the one in the federal health-care overhaul passed by Congress last year. More than half — 58 percent — of likely caucus participants said support of such a mandate would “rule out” their backing.

Romney, meanwhile, continues to express his support for a health care mandate — his version of one, anyway — and defend the policy rather well. Alec MacGillis yesterday called Romney, “Obamacare’s Most Effective Spokesman.”

Now, I’ll admit it’s been a while since I worked on a political campaign, but it seems to me that if Republican voters consider health care mandates a deal breaker, and Romney supports health care mandates, then maybe Romney’s Republican rivals might want to focus some attention on this?

I still have no idea why the GOP field is giving Romney a pass on health care. The former governor’s health care included an individual mandate forcing taxpayers to purchase insurance; it provided benefits to immigrants who entered the country illegally; and it covers abortion — and somehow, this hardly ever comes up in the middle of the GOP primary contest. A year ago, the right was saying Romney wouldn’t even be considered unless he renounced and apologized for his health care law, and now, it’s effectively become a non-issue.

Jonathan Bernstein recently argued that Romney’s GOP rivals are “blowing it.” I agree.

How could Romney run for the Republican nomination after providing the blueprint for the health care law that the GOP hates with the heat of a thousand suns? How could Republican voters condemn government health care mandates as the most offensive policy in American history, and then nominate for president the only governor in America to impose a health care mandate on his constituents?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • DAY on November 15, 2011 12:39 PM:

    I suspect that much of Iowa would be comfortable returning to the walled cities of the Middle Ages. Including Pythonesque tumbrels, and the calls to, "Bring out your dead!"

  • Curmudgeon on November 15, 2011 12:41 PM:

    It could be that the Reps figure they can take Romney out without getting into the healthcare mandate issue because they realize that when the real campaign starts any opposition will come back to bite the eventual nominee.

    Strange as it may seem, they might actually realize that there are people outside their drooling slack-jawed base who like the idea, and they vote.

  • T2 on November 15, 2011 12:45 PM:

    ever wonder why Republicans hate the idea of every citizen having health insurance?
    We all have to have car insurance, don't we? They don't seem in a tizzy over that.

  • c u n d gulag on November 15, 2011 12:48 PM:

    I think 'Curmudgeon' has it right.

    It's almost as if the rest of them in the field are afraid of bringing it up.

  • OKDem on November 15, 2011 12:50 PM:

    Two points - The base has been told to hate mandates but the leadership and the insurance industry want mandates. There is a huge gap between what the GOP base hallucinates and what the leadership mouths but knows is lunacy.

    Second - Even the base hate the Obama part of Obamacare, not so much the "care".

  • Bobsled on November 15, 2011 12:50 PM:

    They must ignore it for fear that it will be revealed that the mandates were a Republican idea to begin with.
    Who wants to throw that first stone?

  • siameese.cities on November 15, 2011 12:54 PM:

    @Curmudgen: you're giving them too much credit. They're steering clear of HC because voter actually kind of like it? But they have no problem attacking social security, gay soldiers, Muslims, women's health issues... and so on?

    I suspect the answer is more simple, (with the exception of Huntsman, Rommer, and maybe Johnson [although I dont really know his positions]) everyone involved in the whole GOP primaries, voters, staffers, candidates, everyone-- is incredibly stupid.

  • bleh on November 15, 2011 12:58 PM:

    Huh. I think more likely it's tacit -- and maybe even overt -- collusion among major Republican donors -- and perhaps the candidates themselves -- not to damage Romney too badly, because he WiLL be the nominee, and the others are just squabbling over the VP slot (and Fox news gigs), and they don't want to kill the goose that may lay a golden egg.

    IOW, not 12-dimensional chess, but simple self-interest.

  • chi res on November 15, 2011 1:05 PM:

    Here's my understanding of the so-called "mandate" from Kaiser Health News and Wikipedia:

    In 2014, the ACA will impose an annual penalty of $95, or up to 1% of income, whichever is greater, on individuals who do not secure insurance; this will rise to $695, or 2.5% of income, by 2016. This is an individual limit; families have a limit of $2,085. Exemptions to the fine in cases of financial hardship or religious beliefs are permitted.

    So this really isn't a legal "requirement". It's simply another area where the government is using tax law to effect behavior.

    As a renter, I have to pay more in taxes because I'm not allowed to use the home mortgage interest deduction. Does that mean there's a mandate to own a home? I would have to pay ridiculous taxes to buy cigarettes if I smoked tobacco. Does that mean that there's a mandate not to smoke? If I don't buy auto insurance as mandated, the state takes away my license to drive. If I don't buy health insurance, the state takes away what, my license to get sick?

    This whole mandate stuff is right-wing spin. Tax law has been used to effect behavior for many, many years. They just don't like this one because it was passed by Obama. The SC has absolutely no good reason to take this case.

  • flowsdownhill on November 15, 2011 1:08 PM:

    Perhaps if his opponents focus on his past support of mandates, they will eventually have to face the fact that its been a) pretty successful, and b) people in MA like it.

    By association then, "Obamacare" may turn out to be a) pretty successful, and b) people will like it, which undercuts the whole ideological foundation of the the anti-mandate argument and its electoral effectiveness.

  • square1 on November 15, 2011 1:19 PM:

    One of these days it may dawn on Steve Benen that the teabaggers are the tools of the GOP, not the puppetmasters.

    Mitt Romney is leading because he will do the bidding of the GOP's corporate masters. And the Money Boyz of the GOP do not give a crap about the individual mandate. Hell, the insurance companies wanted it.

    The only way that Romney loses his bid for the nomination is if Perry gets a brain transplant or if Huckabee decides in the next week to make a late entry.

  • Josef K on November 15, 2011 1:31 PM:

    From square1 at 1:19 PM:

    One of these days it may dawn on Steve Benen that the teabaggers are the tools of the GOP, not the puppetmasters.

    I doubt there's anyone present who seriously think the Tea Party are in conscious, deliberate control of anything (including themselves), never mind an entire political party.

    That said, they are the ones who are ultimately going to be voting for one or another of the Republican's freakshow slate in a few months. Given how difficult they've proven to control, anything is possible now.

  • David DeVore on November 15, 2011 1:35 PM:

    I can't take credit for this idea--I read somewhere else and I don't remember where.

    So here goes: Republican candidates are in a bind on Romney's health care plan as well as the ACA. Right now, the ACA seems to be a scary "government takeover" to Republican primary voters, because they (like the American public at large) don't know what the hell is in it. But in fact, both Romney- and Obamacare achieve near-universal healthcare coverage through the private health insurance market. And the private market is the Republican promised land. So if Romney's opponents get too specific about what Romney- (and Obama-)care does, they'll have to admit that it works through the private market. And then the game is up: the ACA is in fact a conservative plan. So their opposition to it is opposition to expanding the private insurance market. (And of course Romney can respond that he showed that the private insurance market could work to ensure expanded health care coverage, whereas (according to his position) the mandate is unconstitutional at the Federal level--as MacGillis shows he's doing at TNR.)

  • apmat on November 15, 2011 1:55 PM:

    I can tell you why they aren't taking him on about his MA healthcare plan . . . because they don't have any alternative and in fact, can't talk about it because they lack any knowledge of it just like everything else. Avoid it like the plague if you can't discuss it. The only one who tries to sound knowledgeable is Gingrich and his plans are as wacko as the rest.

  • BetweenTheLines on November 15, 2011 2:12 PM:

    How could Republican voters condemn government health care mandates as the most offensive policy in American history, and then nominate for president the only governor in America to impose a health care mandate on his constituents?


  • Redshift on November 15, 2011 2:23 PM:

    It seems to me the only reasonable explanation is that the majority of GOP candidates are running to promote themselves, not because they think they'll be president. Attacking Romney focuses attention on him instead of them. The exceptions are:

    - John Huntsman, who has been attacking but gets no coverage
    - Possibly Ron Paul, who never gets coverage no matter what
    - Rick Perry, who is an incompetent boob

  • Th on November 15, 2011 3:18 PM:

    If large numbers of Iowa Republicans oppose the individual mandate, then lots of people on Medicare are telling pollsters they hate the mandate. Any idea what they think it is or does?

  • Tom Allen on November 15, 2011 4:08 PM:

    Medicare is a mandated PUBLIC insurance program. What we're talking about here is mandating that people buy expensive PRIVATE insurance. This is a slight difference that has always escaped the wonks in DC, but not the "stupid Iowans" who actually pay insurance bills each month and calculate them out years in advance -- particularly when certain political parties are eagerly talking about cutting Medicare and Social Security.

    Democrats were warned, again and again, to include a public option in the health insurance reform bill. They ignored the advice. They mocked the liberals who advised them to do so. So ... go screw yourselves now, I guess.

  • Barry R on November 15, 2011 4:21 PM:

    "How could Republican voters condemn government health care mandates as the most offensive policy in American history, and then nominate for president the only governor in America to impose a health care mandate on his constituents?"

    This of course assumes that the Republicans will actually nominate Romney -- all of us sane people assume that there are sane Republicans who will eventually come around to nominating him. But there really is no reason to assume that. We are just as likely to end up with one of the crazy people running against him. Keep in mind that there are no sane people running the Republican party.

  • Some Guy on November 15, 2011 6:07 PM:

    It makes me wonder how many of these "Candidates" are running for the Vice President slot?

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