Rick Santorum puts 'Romneycare' on trial on steps of Supreme Court (+video)
With the Republican primary calendar in a bit of a lull, Rick Santorum is taking his campaign against Mitt Romney to where the action is, the 'Obamacare' hearings at the Supreme Court.
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It's certainly unlikely that the issue is going to do much to boost Santorum, who is badly trailing Romney in the delegate account and faces far less friendlier states in April primaries. The only question at this point for Santorum seems to be how much longer he'll stay in the race.Skip to next paragraph
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But how much does this it hurt Romney?
Obama's staff have been underlining Romney's Massachusetts health plan too, with David Plouffe, a senior adviser, calling him the "godfather" of the administration's health-care plan.
But not everyone agrees that Romney's health-care history will hurt him.
"To the extent that attacks on President Barack Obama’s health-care reform are good politics, the candidate best able to make them is Mitt Romney," argue Paul Goldman and Mark Rozell in a Politico column. (Mr. Goldman is a former chairman of Virginia’s Democratic Party, and Mark Rozell is a professor of public policy at George Mason University.)
They point out that aspects of ObamaCare are popular, and say that Romney has an edge in criticizing it since he can't be portrayed as totally lacking in compassion the way some other Republicans might be – analagous to Nixon going to China.
Romney "would be the first GOP nominee in nearly 50 years with a proven track record on health care who has been praised by Democrats –including the president – as fair and compassionate. He can’t be demonized as an out-of-touch, uncompassionate, hard-right ideologue on this issue," they write.
That may be a hard distinction for Romney to make to die-hard conservatives in November – but many of those voters may still see him as a better alternative than Obama.
Meanwhile, as much as Santorum and other conservatives are emphasizing the Supreme Court case now, it's hard to know how much of an issue it will be this fall. If the Supreme Court does in fact rule that part or all of the health-care law is unconstitutional, then it's hardly likely to stay at the top of voters' minds.
For now, though, expect Santorum – but not Romney – to get as much news mileage as he can out of the hearings this week.
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