Jonathan Chait

Romney Death Watch

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Republican candidates have been taking turns kicking around Mitt Romney over health care reform, and the latest up is Haley Barbour:

Add Haley Barbour to the list of presidential contenders who have gone after Mitt Romney over RomneyCare.

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, Barbour said Massachusetts had a state insurance plan it liked and that his state, Mississippi, had no interest in it.

"We don't want that. That's not good for us," Barbour told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "We don't want community rating. We don't want extremely high mandatory standard benefits packages."

Romney's response seems to be curling up into the fetal position and hope everybody gets tired of kicking him. Politico solicits some political professionals to offer up some advice for Romney. It doesn't sound very hopeful:

Romney’s “only prayer of winning the primary is that he convinces the ‘reasonable’ wing of the party – which is albeit shrinking – that he is the only one with a prayer of winning the general (election),” Gerstein said. “And that prayer rests on independents not thinking he’s a weasel.”

He added, “If I were advising him, I’d tell him that he has to say what he believes and own it either way ... I actually think he should stick with his current line, but just give a fuller, bigger explanation.”

After days of being poked by Huckabee on the issue, and in the former Arkansas governor’s new book, a Romney aide said the potential candidate is “proud” of what RomneyCare accomplished but that what works in states doesn’t work nationally. From there, he slammed ObamaCare.

A longtime Democratic strategist said Romney ought to pick a couple of key ways in which his plan is different than what Obama is doing “and say they are not the same, and stick with the accomplishment.”

“I would probably put it within the context of cost,” the strategist added. “Not coverage. In other words, ‘Middle class and businesses are getting slammed by health care costs. I reduced costs but without hurting businesses.’ ObamaCare is a Big Government program that hurts the economy. That’s the difference between us.’“

“If I were advising Romney, I would tell him, ‘You need to come to Jesus (on this), you need to figure this out because you can’t finesse it. You either kill it or don’t,’” said Florida-based GOP strategist Rick Wilson.

Wilson said Romney should give a major speech and say that Romneycare “opened the door” for ObamaCare, and be as blunt as possible, saying, “I was trying to do good and I ended up making a giant error.”

The apology route seems like the only way to make the pain stop. But as Gerstein notes, it would jack up the already-high weasel factor, which in turn would make him nearly useless as a front man to attract independents.

Apologizing is also problematic when you've written this:

My advice? Find something to do other than run for president.

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