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Washington (CNN) - With the Republican base largely unified in its contempt for President Obama's health care law, Sen. Jim DeMint, an icon of the tea party movement, has been forced to explain his early support for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's health care plan, which was a model for reform on the federal level.

The South Carolinian cited the "innovative" Massachusetts health care plan when he endorsed Romney's 2008 presidential bid, saying the plan leveraged "good conservative ideas" like bringing private insurance companies into the process.