I suppose Romney believes that voters should be impressed that as governor of Massachusetts, he didn't force West Virginians to use his top-down state-controlled health care system. Yes, federalism diffuses centralized power; it's a worthy process, a great idea, and it's got nothing to do with Romney's record. Put it this way: Just because I love the First Amendment doesn't mean I have to love the obscene things Joe Biden has done with it.
No doubt, the impending presidential debate will center on the state of the economy -- and general election voters are far less ideologically motivated than primary voters. Yet grander themes can move people. Obama will continue to spin tales about a nation strangled by capitalistic excess and inequity. It is an arching theme that plays on the fears of many nervous Americans and is sure to animate grass-roots supporters in urban tent environments everywhere.
Republicans, in turn, have lost a genuine opportunity to point to the purest example of Obama's aversion to economic and individual freedom. It's the mandate that allows Obamacare to assault religious freedom. It's the mandate, coupled with increasing regulatory burdens, that many people fear will limit consumer choice and competition.
The entire project falls apart without the mandate.
No doubt, Mitt or Newt will continue to promise to overturn the health care reform law -- and, who knows, the winner may. Or perhaps the Supreme Court will save us all by deeming the mandate unconstitutional. But to think, after all the anger and frustration caused by Obamacare -- not to mention its persisting unpopularity -- one of the strongest arguments against it has been dulled before the GOP presidential nominee could even make it.