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Monday, March 22, 2010

Last Night Was Romney's Waterloo

The biggest loser of last night's healthcare vote in the House was not, in fact, House Minority Leader John Boehner. If there was one clear closer, it was Mitt Romney.

It has long been noted that the healthcare reform passed by the House last night is very much like the healthcare reform signed into law by then Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Romney's strategy for becoming the 2012 GOP nominee revolves around two main ideas. The first, is positing himself as, for lack of a better word, "next in line." Republican GOP primaries tend not to nominate surprise candidates, a la Obama, but rather someone who is "due" their turn. Often (though not always), this person has run before and lost in the primary to the eventual nominee. This list includes McCain, Reagan (remember - Reagan ran against Gerald Ford in 1976), Dole, and Bush 41 (Bush 43 was more of a legacy candidate, but still fits into the overall theme of the importance of hierarchy in the process).

But he needs another leg to stand on - and that will be the economy. Romney has long sold his work for private equity funds as being just the sort of economic acumen this country needs.

So what's happening with that? As to the first part of the strategy, the appearance of Obama has sparked a desire for a more inspirational candidate than usual, and Romney is many things, but inspiring is not one of them.

As regards the economy, by 2012, all signs indicate that employment levels will be noticeably recovering (the economy as a whole is already recovering, but employment is a lagging indicator).

So, the legs that support Romney's candidacy are already wobbling a little. With that being true, the last thing he needs is something new for his opponents (Palin, Huckabee, Thune, Santorum, Pence, Pawlenty, etc.) to beat him over the head with - but last night's healthcare reform is exactly that.

Whether you agree with the reform or not, I think we can all agree that a significant percentage of the voters who will make up the participants in GOP primaries will see it as a bad thing - and every one of them will see television ads and receive direct mail explaining how "Obamacare" is actually just "Romney-care."

To drag the metaphor out further, without another leg to stand, Romney's almost certain to fall under that kind of bludgeoning.

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