San­to­rum as­sails Rom­ney’s health care stances

Says ri­val sup­ported na­tional man­date

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO | While Mitt Rom­ney squeaked out a nar­row vic­tory in Ohio’s Re­pub­li­can pri­mary, chief op­po­nent Rick San­to­rum peeled away the scab and drew new blood over the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor’s his­tory on health care, res­ur­rect­ing the chief ob­sta­cle be­tween Mr. Rom­ney and the nom­i­na­tion. Mr. San­to­rum at­tacked Mr. Rom­ney on new rev­e­la­tions that the for­mer gov­er­nor sup­ported an in­di­vid­ual man­date not only in Mas­sachusetts, but — at least in Mr. San­to­rum’s read of things — for Amer­i­cans na­tion­wide, just like Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law does.

Mr. Rom­ney ended up win­ning six of the 10 states that held con­tests on Su­per Tues­day, in­clud­ing the ma­jor prize of Ohio, but the health care at­tack prom­ises to loom big as the cam­paign turns to cau­cuses this week­end in Kansas and pri­maries next week in Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama.

“I have never been for an in­di­vid­ual man­date on the state or fed­eral level,” Mr. San­to­rum said Tues­day at his elec­tion-night party in Ohio, hours be­fore the state was called for Mr. Rom­ney. “I have never passed a statewide gov­ern­ment-run health

care sys­tem, but Gov. Rom­ney did.”

The cal­en­dar in the next two weeks looks dan­ger­ous for Mr. Rom­ney, with the two South­ern states com­bined with a slate of cau­cuses, both fea­tures of races where his record has been mixed.

Later in March, Illi­nois holds its pri­mary, which should be more friendly ground.

But Mr. Rom­ney is once again the chief tar­get, and the health care rev­e­la­tions of the past week will pro­vide am­mu­ni­tion for his ri­vals.

Mr. Rom­ney has con­tended that while he ap­proved a man­date that all Mas­sachusetts res­i­dents buy in­sur­ance, he didn’t think the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should im­pose that na­tion­ally.

Such a fed­eral man­date is the chief com­po­nent of Mr. Obama’s na­tional law — which most Repub­li­cans, and all four Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, say should be re­pealed.

In the past week, how­ever, Mr. San­to­rum has high­lighted a tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance and an op-ed col­umn by Mr. Rom­ney, both of which had been pre­vi­ously over­looked, that sug­gested he sup­ported a na­tional man­date.

In the tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance he spoke fa­vor­ably of a bill spon­sored by Sen. Ron Wy­den, Ore­gon Demo­crat, and then-sen. Robert F. Ben­nett, Utah Re­pub­li­can, that in­cluded such a man­date. In the USA To­day col­umn, he urged Mr. Obama to use Mas­sachusetts as a model for a na­tional plan.

Talk-show host Joe Scar­bor­ough, a for­mer Re­pub­li­can con­gress­man, said the rev­e­la­tions mean Mr. Rom­ney “lied” when he said he sup­ported a man­date only in Mas­sachusetts but not na­tion­wide.

Mr. San­to­rum, fel­low can­di­date Newt Gin­grich and their al­lies have spent months warn­ing that Mr. Rom­ney would have a tougher time draw­ing dis­tinc­tions with Mr. Obama in the gen­eral elec­tion, and now they ac­cuse Mr. Rom­ney of ob­scur­ing his sup­port for a na­tional man­date.

“It is one thing to de­fend a man­dated, top­down gov­ern­ment-run health care pro­gram that you im­posed on the peo­ple of your state, and it is an­other thing to rec­om­mend and en­cour­age the pres­i­dent of the United States to im­pose the same thing on the Amer­ica peo­ple,” Mr. San­to­rum said.

“And it’s an­other thing yet to go out and tell the Amer­i­can peo­ple that you didn’t do it. We need a per­son run­ning against Pres­i­dent Obama who is right on the is­sues and truth­ful with the Amer­i­can public,” he con­cluded in Tues­day night’s speech.

The Rom­ney camp coun­ters that their boss al­ways has fa­vored a state’s rights ap­proach and that Mr. San­to­rum’s at­tack shows des­per­a­tion as the ex-gov­er­nor rat­tles off vic­tory af­ter vic­tory, ex­tend­ing his lead in the del­e­gate count.

In the de­bates, Mr. Rom­ney has said Mas­sachusetts was a spe­cial cir­cum­stance and has de­nied be­liev­ing that a na­tional man­date is the cor­rect pol­icy. He draws ap­plause from sup­port­ers on the cam­paign trail when he vows to repeal Mr. Obama’s law.

But it is clear that other vot­ers are still wrestling with the topic, as ev­i­denced by a woman who asked him at town hall in Youngstown, Ohio, this week to clar­ify for her how his plan fits un­der the con­ser­va­tive um­brella and the pres­i­dent’s does not.

Charles R. Siphan, chair­man of the po­lit­i­cal sci­ence depart­ment at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, said the Rom­ney de­fense clearly has res­onated with some con­ser­va­tives, but not all of them.

“It’s a hard ar­gu­ment for Rom­ney to make, and it’s not clear that it has ended up be­ing con­vinc­ing or that it has helped him,” Mr. Siphan said, be­fore ex­plain­ing that polls show the public — es­pe­cially con­ser­va­tives — have lit­tle ap­petite for an in­di­vid­ual man­date.

“Frankly, I’m sur­prised that Rom­ney’s op­po­nents haven’t brought this is­sue up more of­ten and more force­fully, as it seems to be a clear win­ner for them,” he said.

Ohio At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mike Dewine said the health care sys­tem Mr. Rom­ney em­braced in the Bay State is a pri­mary rea­son he with­drew his sup­port from him last month and put it be­hind Mr. San­to­rum.

The ex-gov­er­nor’s record, Mr. Dewine warned, will act as “ball and chain around his neck” in a gen­eral elec­tion by di­min­ish­ing the amount of grass-roots ex­cite­ment and en­ergy be­hind his can­di­dacy.

“For us to win, we have to have a lot of the peo­ple I am see­ing com­ing to the San­to­rum ral­lies,” he said. “These are pro-lif­ers, these are tea par­ty­ers, these are home-school­ers — these are the peo­ple I saw in the last suc­cess­ful Bush cam­paign when we went to all the call cen­ters and you had home school­ers with five or six kids mak­ing phone calls. You are not go­ing to see that for Rom­ney. That isn’t go­ing to hap­pen. I will be for him if he is the nom­i­nee, but you are not go­ing to see that en­ergy.”

Some of the San­to­rum sup­port­ers gath­ered here echoed a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment, adding that Mr. Rom­ney has yet to earn their com­plete trust.

“I don’t know what he would do in the fu­ture be­cause of his past,” said Amanda Batalune, 31, a phar­ma­cist from Steubenville. “Like Dr. Phil says, ‘Your past be­hav­ior is a pre­dic­tor of your fu­ture be­hav­ior.’ I be­lieve that with him, so I don’t know. He could have changed his mind, but I just don’t trust him the way I trust Rick San­to­rum.”

Don­ald and Kelly Golds­bor­ough, hus­band and wife from Delaware, said they drove 497 miles to at­tend Mr. San­to­rum’s vic­tory party — car­ry­ing a mas­sive wooden sign that filled the bed of their full-size truck that reads: “Vote San­to­rum To Repeal Oba­macare.”

“I al­most feel like I’m not sure I would sit home or not, and I have never thought of throw­ing my vote away,” Mr. Golds­bor­ough said. “I sup­pose when push comes to shove, I would vote for Rom­ney, but I am just not en­thu­si­as­tic about him.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rick San­to­rum, cam­paign­ing with his daugh­ter El­iz­a­beth (right) in Lenexa, Kan., wasted no time us­ing the is­sue of health care man­dates against Mitt Rom­ney, his tough­est ri­val in the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing con­tests.

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