Mitt Romney Inadvertently Pokes the Conservative Base Again

Posted: Jun 04, 2012 11:41 PM
Mitt Romney recently announced that former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt will helm his presidential transition team. Leavitt also served in the Bush Administration as head of the EPA and Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Leavitt has also led Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm that has specialized in winning Obamacare implementation contracts.

The secret to [Leavitt Partners} success: the health reform law and the millions of dollars it invests in health exchanges, the new marketplaces that states must launch by 2014 or risk the federal government coming in and taking over the task.

This would be a non-story if not for the Romneycare millstone hanging around the GOP nominee's neck. Romney has had a long history of struggling with opposition to President Obama's signature domestic health care achievement and continues to be accused of harboring sentiments for the the government-centric approach to health reform.

Policy-wise, the work that Leavitt's firm has done in helping states cooperate with Obamacare mandates are not a transgression of conservatism. Many conservative approaches to health care reform establish state-level exchanges in order to deal with the uninsured. Massachusetts' did; so did Utah and Texas. Conservatives can take issue with the rules that these exchanges will have to operate under, but not their very existence.

The problem is that it's just another piece of symbolism that cause conservatives to raise an eyebrow at Mitt Romney. The standard grassroots conservative line on Obamacare is that every single detail of it has to be repealed. Conservatives shouldn't allow their vision to be clouded and ignore any good policy, but Romney just doesn't seem to be sensitive to conservatives' concerns that surround his Romneycare heritage.

In a good rundown of how Romneycare came to be, BostInno's Walt Frick writes that the notion that Romney was carried along by the state Democrats is exaggerated.

While it may be tempting for Republicans to assume that Romney was merely pulled along by a Democratic legislature and an industry bent on reform, that simply is not true... “There really wasn’t Republican or Democrat in this,” said Romney in 2006. “People ask me if this is conservative or liberal, and my answer is yes. It’s liberal in the sense that we’re getting our citizens health insurance. It’s conservative in that we’re not getting a government takeover.”

The appointment of Leavitt should not be, pragmatically, a very big deal. But combined with Romney's continued insensitivity to the nuclear issue of Obamacare, it's become a minor story.