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Asking the Wrong Question About Romney in 2012

In today’s Washington Post, Perry Bacon Jr. wonders whether Mitt Romney may “take health care off the table as an issue in the 2012 election if he wins the nomination.” If Romney were the Republican candidate, that would be true. The author of Massachusetts’s RomneyCare would be in no position to run against Obamacare.

But despite the mainstream media’s insistence on treating Romney as the putative GOP frontrunner because of the money he’s raised and his name recognition, that is also precisely the reason why he can’t win the Republican nomination.

As Bacon writes, we can be sure that President Obama will not be running on his record as the man who shoved a massive government health care bill down the throats of an unhappy America since, as the writer concedes, the bill is still unpopular.

The Post writer thinks Romney’s doubling down on his support for a government health care program is a manifestation of the candidate’s integrity that will help him overcome his image as a flip-flopper. But there are two problems with that formula. First, the one thing that unites Republicans is their abhorrence of Obamacare and it is unlikely that even the lack of many viable alternatives to his candidacy will convince many Republicans to back him. Second is the fact that there are still plenty of other issues on which Romney is a flip-flopper so it isn’t likely that he’ll live that moniker down anytime soon.

The fact is any Republican who wins the presidential nomination next year will have to run against Obama on health care. To comprehend that basic fact of contemporary political life is to understand why Romney has little or no chance of being the nominee.