Mitt Romney's big health care speech: Will it help him?

The similarity between 'ObamaCare' and Romney's reform in Massachusetts still troubles conservatives. Can Romney change their minds?

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image)

Mitt Romney plans to deliver a speech on Thursday to confront the biggest obstacle between him and the GOP presidential nomination — health care. In 2006, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed health care reform into law, making his state the first in the nation to guarantee all its citizens health-insurance coverage. Massachusetts has been widely referenced as the model for the national law that President Obama passed and that the GOP opposes. Can Romney say anything that will get conservatives to forgive him for "RomneyCare"?

No, Romney is hopelessly trapped: Unless Romney apologizes profusely for the individual mandate in Massachusetts's reform law, his speech won't make any difference, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. On other issues, his federalist argument — Washington should leave health care to the states — might fly. But there is no getting around the fact that Romney's reform, like Obama's, mandates that individuals buy health insurance, something the conservative party line regards as "tyranny."

"Mitt Romney tries to cut his Gordian Knot"

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Health care doesn't have to sink Romney: Actually, Romney has a chance here to start from scratch, says Mark Halperin at TIME. His aides say he's going to spell out a plan to repeal and replace Obama's law, which means he'll be defining the debate. "By putting out a detailed plan well before any of his opponents, Romney has his best chance to move the conversation from the past to the future."

"Taking it on"

Romney's problems are too big to fix with a speech: So, Romney's going to "acknowledge the elephant in the room," says Allahpundit at Hot Air, and then shoot it. That might help "if his problem was fundamentally about health care policy. It isn't." The base doesn't "trust his judgment more broadly, from RomneyCare to his reversal on abortion to his support for TARP." And a mere speech won't change that.

"Are you ready for the big Romney health-care speech?"

He has to take some form of action: "Nothing he's tried so far has worked, but nothing will get as much attention as this speech," says Dave Weigel at Slate. So he'll have to go beyond saying that his state's plan isn't a "one size fits all" approach, a common conservative complaint about Obama's law. Romney might try getting "granular about what was right and wrong with the bill," or explain that the solution he championed in 2006 really isn't socialism. One thing is certain: If he wants to be president, he can't punt.

"What can Romney say about health care?"

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