Mr. Mandate

Romney and the Mandate

06.05.12 3:47 PM ET

Good work by The Wall Street Journal today on how Romney pushed hard and personally for the individual mandate to be included in the Massachsetts health-care law. He was really in there deep. The state senate Democrats were against infringing on people's liberties i.e. making them buy insurance, but Willard was firm:

"Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian," the published op-ed stated. In a line that didn't make the edited version, Mr. Romney added: "An uninsured libertarian might counter that he could refuse the free care, but under law, that is impossible—and inhumane."

So, he rather clearly favored the heavy hand of the government here. The question is, what can the Obama people do with this, if anything? What do they do with this whole issue?

A fuller answer has to await the Supreme Court. But it's a tough one for the Obama team. This story makes Romney seem sane and responsible, but obviousy the Obama team would prefer to present Romney as insane and irresponsible, the way he sounded back during the primaries when he was fending off Ricky. The only case the Obama people can make about Romneycare is the hypocrisy one, but even that feeds into the see-Romney-is-really-a-moderate meme. For now, I am sticking with my counterintuitive claim that the best outcome politically for Obama in November is a 5-4 decision against the mandate: It will make right wingers relax and it'll really fire up liberals. Not that that's the outcome I want, but there's little doubt in my mind about the politics of it. Running against Scalia and Roberts is a gift from heaven.