Romney Campaign Moving To ‘Cease Fire’ On Health Care?

National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar reports that the Romney campaign appears to be moving away from the health care debate in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling:

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court health care ruling, the early conventional wisdom was that an unfavorable health care ruling at the court would be good for Republicans politically, even as it was a serious policy setback for conservatives. But that’s not shaping up to be the case. Mitt Romney, after giving a brief statement decrying the decision, has been virtually silent on criticizing the health care law. He’s been on vacation and his campaign has been giving off clear signals that it doesn’t want to make health care a major part of the election.

(…)

For an issue that’s supposedly potent against Democrats, Romney’s campaign is declaring a cease fire. This, even as the law polls unfavorably and it proved to be a motivating force for Republicans and disaffected independents in the 2010 midterms.

It’s becoming clear that Romney has decided to focus on the economy at the expense of everything else, even issues that could play to his political benefit. He’s avoided criticizing the administration’s handling of the botched Fast and Furious operation, even as it threatens to become a serious vulnerability for the president. He’s been silent in responding to Obama’s immigration executive order, not wanting to offend receptive Hispanics or appear like a flip-flopper. He appears more likely to tap a safe, bland running mate like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who won’t do him any harm but won’t benefit him much either. If the economy continues to sputter, that safe strategy might be enough. If not, his options are limited.

Rick Klein notes:

Rick Santorum, surely, is somewhere smiling. This is what he was warning about when he labeled Mitt Romney the “worst Republican” to take on President Obama – Romney is automatically weaker in leveling critiques on health care, as evidenced by his campaign’s unwillingness to call the penalty for not obtaining insurance a “tax.” This deflates some GOP messaging, but it may have needed puncturing. The fee/penalty/tax will only apply to a tiny sliver of voters, as Romney knows first-hand. And to the extent that not calling it a tax leaves Republicans focused on the economy, rather than the now-upheld health care law, the party will be better-positioned to appeal to undecided voters. As the new ABC News/Washington Post poll out today shows, it’s not as if Romney health care plans are any more popular than Obama’s — quite the opposite.

Given the polls that we’ve seen since the decision came down, including the ones I made note of this morning, this is probably a wise strategy. The economy is going to be the top issue in this election, and Romney does himself no favors by distracting himself from it. We are likely to see this issue playing itself out more in down-ballot races than the Presidential races, especially in Senate races where both sides will likely be pointing out that fact that majority control of the Senate means the Republicans will be able repeal most, if not all, of the PPACA. At the top of the ticket, though, I suspect we’ll see both candidates focused like a laser beam on the economy.

Note: I added a question mark to the post title only because the Romney campaign itself has not confirmed this change in strategy.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Health Care, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Vast Variety says:

    I think some on the right are going to make it difficult for Romeny to move on.

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/07/02/Mitt-Quit-Now-If-You-Wont-Fight

  2. bluepen9uin says:

    Strange question: So is Mitt allowed to take a vacation because he isn’t President? Just want to make sure I understand the rules.

  3. The economy is going to be the top issue in this election, and Romney does himself no favors by distracting himself from it.

    There are wingnuts who will say the ACA is the root of all economic evil … but I think that’s a pretty far right fringe at this point.

    The continuing European saga drives this home as a global issue, about global imbalances.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Not surprised. As I’ve said before, the anti-ACA reaction was largely fact-free hysteria. And there was never a way for Romney of all people to attack it effectively.

  5. @michael reynolds:

    Whether he was counting on the law being struck down, or just positioning for that possibility, it would have given him another path.

    Romney, in the aftermath of an “unconstitutional” ruling would have been pretty well positioned to talk new possibilities (even vague possibilities).

    Now, not so much.

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    I’m not sure he will be able to dodge it. Obama beats him by 15 points on health care.

  7. DRS says:

    Any other Republican candidate could have gone after Obamacare tooth and nail. The father of Romneycare – not so much.

  8. Scott says:

    @bluepen9uin: He doesn’t work so how can he take a vacation?

  9. legion says:

    The economy is going to be the top issue in this election, and Romney does himself no favors by distracting himself from it.

    Yes, but adding to the deficit to pay for it is the only sane argument wingers have against the ACA (the insane argument, that it destroys our rights and makes us the New Soviet States of America, is, well, insane).

    Frankly, I see this as Romney distancing himself from the whole affair – if he does get elected, it makes me think he has no real interest in repealing it.

  10. Gustopher says:

    I believe he is just focus grouping a new set of statements, if not principles. Give him a little time, and he’ll be back on the attack.

    Obamacare is uppity? The Job Killing Obamacare hurts the country, while the identical Job Killing Romneycare just hurts Massachusetts — and really, who wouldn’t want to hurt Massachusetts?

  11. C. Clavin says:

    So now he doesn’t want to talk about his signature acheivement as a Governor any more?
    It seems to me that there is a long and growing list of things he is not interested in talking about.
    It also seems that much of what he does say are lies.
    And he’s the best of the Republican party has to offer?
    Sad.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Right now, Romney is boxed in on ACA.
    He has to run against his own plan, while he runs against ACA.
    He is well-advised to move away from this issue fast, it can do him no good.

  13. PJ says:

    @C. Clavin:

    So now he doesn’t want to talk about his signature acheivement as a Governor any more?
    It seems to me that there is a long and growing list of things he is not interested in talking about.
    It also seems that much of what he does say are lies.
    And he’s the best of the Republican party has to offer?
    Sad.

    Agree.
    Romney Cant talk about:
    His work at Bain.
    His time as Governor in liberal Massachusetts.
    RomneyCare.
    His religion.
    The 2002 Olympics. (My guess is that the 2012 Olympics will stop that.)

    Which obviously leaves lying as the only thing he can do.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @PJ:
    Romney’s in a trap of his own making. He can’t talk about any aspect of his life or experience, which leaves nothing but negative attacks, which will exacerbate his lack of likability.

    My guess is we’ll see a fairly steady 4-5 point gap straight on through to the election barring some huge external game-changing event.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @ PJ and Michael…
    Even if he expects the economy to be enough…he never actually says what he will do to boost the recovery. Everything is vague…non-commital. How’s that play in a debate with Obama?

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    On “Day 1” he’ll just magically make the economy better. It’ll just happen spontaneously.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    On “Day 1″ he’ll just magically make the economy better. It’ll just happen spontaneously.

    Maybe he’ll perform his very own “feeding the multitude” miracle and turn his fortune into an even greater fortune to pay off the debt and pass out $100 bills to everyone….that scenario certainly seems more likely than anything he’s ever talked about…

  18. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It’s the stupidity, economy.

  19. Dazedandconfused says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I was thinking that too. Debates will the the only times and places where he will be face real questioning about it.

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @legion: ” if he does get elected, it makes me think he has no real interest in repealing it. interests in anything.

    FIFY.

  21. RAY FORD says:

    WHY DOES EVERYONE TALK ABOUT ROMNEY’S BACKGROUND? OBAMA DOES NOT HAVE A BACKGROUND TO ATTACK BECAUSE HE HAS NEVER DONE ANYTHING WORTH MENTIONING UNLESS YOUR TALKING ABOUT THE LAST THREE PITYFUL YEARS. OBAMA DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE DEFICIT. HIM & HIS WIFE SPEND LAVIOUSLY WITH THE TAX PAYERS MONEY ACTUALLY HE SPENDS WORSE THAN CONGRESS. USE OF THE AF ONE IS $187,000 AN HOUR & JUST LOOK UP THE TRIPS HE HAS BEEN MAKING. ANYONE VOTING FOR THAT KIND OF GOVERNMENT IN MY OPINION IS JUST PLAIN NUTS & WE THOUGHT JIMMY CARTER WAS BAD WOW!!! I BELIEVE ANY OF THE CANDIDATES WO WERE RUNNING WOULD BE BETTER THAN OBAMA. SHOULD YOU WANT A SOCIALIST AMERICA THEN VOTE FOR OBAMA………

  22. PJ says:

    @RAY FORD:
    Please step away from Caps Lock.

  23. Jib says:

    Its OK, Rays hearing aid battery died. He does not know he is yelling. Just nod and smile…..