ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Mitt Romney, confronting an issue that seriously threatens his presidential ambitions, acknowledged Thursday that the health care law he promoted and signed as Massachusetts governor has become a liability for him.
"I hear some laughter in the room," Romney remarked after he said he regarded his Massachusetts plan as a political asset in his 2008 presidential campaign. "That's not the case now. It's gone from being seen as an asset to being a liability, politically."
Under the plan, everyone in Massachusetts is required to obtain medical insurance or pay a penalty. Romney's government mandate and the rest of the plan was a model for President Barack Obama's health care plan, which is the focus of Republican efforts in Congress and the courts to repeal or overturn it.
As a result, Romney finds himself on the wrong side of an issue that could severely hinder his effectiveness in delivering the Republican health care message against Obama in a general election. He made note of that turnabout in his speech to 100 relatives, supporters and medical school personnel at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.
His advisers promoted the speech as a "big moment" in his campaign. Romney used it to attack Obama and outline an alternative national health care plan, which he admitted was essentially the same one he put forward in 2008.
In his speech, Romney said he would neither disown nor apologize for the Massachusetts law. To do so, he said, "wouldn't be honest."
"I, in fact, did what I believe was right for the people of my state," he said.
As he has since leaving the governor's office to run for president, Romney said states should be free to adopt their own plans. He criticized the federal plan as a "power grab" by the federal government "to put in place a one-size-fits-all" solution.
Romney has consistently supported government mandates, which puts him at odds with conservatives in his party. In his presentation Thursday, he glossed over the point that Obama's mandate is designed to reduce the number of people without medical insurance, the main objective of the Massachusetts plan and still a problem in every other state.