Will Mitt Romney Be the GOP’s Guy in 2012?

Not if health care is still an issue.

Ed Kilgore has an interesting piece on Romney over at The New Republic website today. Kilgore thinks that Romney should be the GOP front-runner in 2012. The potential Republican field, he argues, is perfectly suited for him.

Yet Romney may have a problem with all those tea-party conservatives who do not want the government meddling with health care. Kilgore makes a great point: The health care reform package Romney championed and eventually got passed during his stint as governor of Massachusetts is quite similar to the health care bill that Obama “will probably be signing earlier this year.”

The Romney camp has already responded to this potential problem. Kilgore quotes from the National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru:

Romney makes three arguments in his defense. The first is that a Democratic legislature and his Democratic successor made the plan worse than his original conception. The second is that he has no intention of pushing the Massachusetts plan on the entire country. Health-care reform, he tells me, “should occur on a state-by-state basis.” The third is that the plan has worked out well for his state. “The plan is well within budget and has accomplished its objectives at a relatively modest cost.” It’s that third point that could get Romney into trouble. The cost to the state government has indeed been modest. But the plan was designed so that the state picks up only a fifth of the costs the plan generates, with the federal government and the private sector absorbing the rest. Premiums are growing much faster than in the rest of the nation. Waiting times are up, too, which imposes costs on people. The plan is losing popularity in Massachusetts. Ideally, Romney would learn from this experience that a reform centered on state governments’ manipulation of federal dollars is a mistake. At the very least, Romney would be foolish to keep defending the plan.