Guy Benson
Mitt Romney's delicate 'no to Obamacare, yes to Romneycare' dance isn't the only major political address with 2012 implications on today's agenda.  Cheri Daniels, the wife of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, will deliver a speech to the Indiana Republican Party in Indianapolis later tonight.  The context is the story:


Cheri Daniels has made no secret of her distaste for politics. She did not campaign for her husband, Mitch Daniels, during two races for governor. She did not fully move into the governor’s mansion after his election. She has never delivered a political speech.  But as leading Republicans step up their efforts to urge Mr. Daniels to run for president, the attention has suddenly turned to Mrs. Daniels, who makes her debut here on Thursday when she delivers a keynote address at the spring dinner of the Indiana Republican Party.

Her willingness to take on a public role has increased the speculation about his intentions. But it has also come at the price of increased scrutiny on the couple’s private life, something Mr. Daniels had seemed to have on his mind for months as he made it clear that family considerations would weigh heavily on his decision.

...

Even while acknowledging that her appearance at the party gathering on Thursday would lead to speculation about his political intentions, [Daniels] sought to play down its significance.

Cheri hasn’t even attended one of these, let alone appeared at one of them,” he said in a recent interview. He added, “Tea leaves started getting read — and I get it.”  Mr. Daniels has declined to say what his wife thinks about the idea of him running for president.


I just spoke with a plugged-in conservative who recently met with Gov. Daniels, and he told me he got the impression Daniels is planning to run.  The fact that Daniels' "anti-political" wife is now willing to try her hand at public speaking could, in fact, be a telling "tea leaf," as he puts it in the Times piece. 

Back to Romney's speech for a moment.  A blistering editorial in today's Wall Street Journal demonstrates just how steep a hill the former Massachusetts Governor has to climb in order to overcome his Romneycare problem.  When you see its title, you won't be surprised that the ensuing indictment is absolutely brutal:


Like Mr. Obama's reform, RomneyCare was predicated on the illusion that insurance would be less expensive if everyone were covered. Even if this theory were plausible, it is not true in Massachusetts today. So as costs continue to climb, Mr. Romney's Democratic successor now wants to create a central board of political appointees to decide how much doctors and hospitals should be paid for thousands of services.


The Romney camp blames all this on a failure of execution, not of design. But by this cause-and-effect standard, Mr. Romney could push someone out of an airplane and blame the ground for killing him. Once government takes on the direct or implicit liability of paying for health care for everyone, the only way to afford it is through raw political control of all medical decisions.


Mr. Romney's refusal to appreciate this, then and now, reveals a troubling failure of political understanding and principle. The raucous national debate over health care isn't about this or that technocratic detail, but about basic differences over the role of government. In the current debate over Medicare, Paul Ryan wants to reduce costs by encouraging private competition while Mr. Obama wants the cost-cutting done by a body of unelected experts like the one emerging in Massachusetts. 



The Journal's unforgiving conclusion:
 

For a potential President whose core argument is that he knows how to revive free market economic growth, this amounts to a fatal flaw. Presidents lead by offering a vision for the country rooted in certain principles, not by promising a technocracy that runs on "data." Mr. Romney's highest principle seems to be faith in his own expertise.

More immediately for his Republican candidacy, the debate over ObamaCare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election. On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.


Ouch.  Romney previewed his healthcare approach in an Op/Ed in yesterday's USA Today.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography