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14 Pieces Worth Reading, Mostly Economics for March 30, 2010

Jonathan Chait's Romney Death Watch Doesn't Go Far Enough

Chait writes:

Romney Death Watch: Republicans believe that the Affordable Care Act is socialist tyranny. Romney's position is basically that socialist tyranny is okay as long as it's imposed on a state-by-state basis. I don't see this argument winning over the GOP base. This is why I've been skeptical for a while now about Romney's 2012 prospects. The Atlantic Monthly's Marc Ambinder takes issue.... Ambinder has this backwards. Right now, Romney looks fine -- he has money, name recognition, decent polling, and the like.... Republican leaders... trying to demonize the Affordable Care Act... have little incentive to point out that it's basically Romneycare plus cost controls. But in... 2012... lots of Republicans [will be] playing up the comparisons between Romneycare and Obamacare. Romney appears political viable right now because most Republican voters have not been exposed to the Romneycare-Obamacare comparison.... When the attacks come, Romney just has no convincing reply. Indeed, you're going to see more quotes like this, from the economist who helped devise the basis of both programs:

“Basically, it’s the same thing,’’ said Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who advised the Romney and Obama administrations on their health insurance programs. A national health overhaul would not have happened if Mitt Romney had not made “the decision in 2005 to go for it. He is in many ways the intellectual father of national health reform.’’

This is going to be the basis for a devastating attack, and I don't see how Romney answers it. I'd like to see Romney win the nomination, because he's intelligent, competent, and has some decent moral instincts buried somewhere beneath a thick coat of pandering demagoguery. I just don't see it happening.

Indeed, IMHO there was one and only one way that Romney had a chance to win the Republican nomination in 2012, an that was to start running in 2009 as the moderate in the hope (i) that everyone else would go after the wingnut vote and cancel each other out in the early primaries, and (ii) that once he is the front-runner the natural Republican tendency to give your primary vote to last time's runner-up dominates.

But that would have required that Romney stand up on his hind legs and be a man last October and say what he really believes--that RomneyCare is a pretty good health plan, that the problem with ObamaCare is that its funding is a bit too progressive, and that the Congressional Republicans are making a big mistake in not offering Obama 70-30 Senate passage with 20 Republicans on board in return for moving the bill to the right.

But Romney did not tack to the left and say what he believed back last October. So now I would be very surprised if he has any future at all in American politics. The press narrative of him as a soulless pandering zombie will in all likelihood be impossible to overcome is set--and justly so.