Newt Gingrich has announced his candidacy for the 2012 presidential election. Mitt Romney has not announced officially, but surely is not far behind. As far as I’m concerned, both candidacies are absolutely, positively dead in the water.
The Republican Party, as you know, has a habit of nominating the candidate who seems next in line for the nomination. Last Thursday, conservatives across America watched as Romney, the purported GOP heir apparent, called a press conference and refused to repudiate the government-run health care program he implemented while governor of Massachusetts. The program, affectionately called “RomneyCare,” served as inspiration for Barack Obama’s health care reform plans, and even featured an individual mandate.
Now, while the individual mandate forced upon all Americans under ObamaCare is certainly unconstitutional as a perversion of the federal government’s commerce power, on the state level an individual mandate would be protected by state police power, which reserves for the state authority necessary to maintain and preserve the health, safety and well-being of its people. Nevertheless, electoral politics knows no distinction, and the proper course of action for a presidential candidate in Romney’s position would have been to repudiate the program, acknowledge and point out its failures, explain that actions were taken on behalf of what was thought to be the people’s best interests, and dismiss the entire endeavor as a lesson in the merits of federalism.
Romney did no such thing, and may have scuttled his campaign. To be honest, given the position he was placed in, Romney made the best of a preexisting bad situation. Newt Gingrich, however, created a bad situation all by his lonesome.
Yesterday, on NBC’s Meet the Press, the former House Speaker came out strongly against Rep. Paul Ryan’s House GOP plan for Medicare–he dismissed it as “right-wing social engineering,” to which Ryan asked “with allies like that, who needs the left?“–and once again reiterated his support for the individual mandate. That’s right, the individual mandate. From NewsMax:
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gingrich told host David Gregory that he continues to advocate for a plan he first called for in the early 1990s as a Congressman, which requires every uninsured citizen to purchase or acquire health insurance.
Gregory played a clip of Gingrich speaking during an appearance on Meet the Press in October 1993:
“I am for people, individuals — exactly like automobile insurance — individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance. And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy so we insure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.”
Gregory asked Gingrich if he would criticize GOP presidential rival Mitt Romney, whose “Romneycare” health program enacted during his time as Governor in Massachusetts mandated that all uninsured purchase health insurance.
Gingrich replied he would not make it an issue in the campaign and said he agreed with key aspects of Romneycare.
“I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay–help pay for health care,” Gingrich said, adding, “I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond …”
Gingrich also admitted that his proposal is a “variation” of the individual mandate, a key component of the Obamacare legislation President Obama signed into law in 2010.
Later in the Meet the Press interview, Newt argued that “I believe all of us have a responsibility to help pay for healthcare.” The totality of Speaker Gingrich’s remarks are reminiscent of those made by President Obama to a joint session of Congress in September 2009:
BARACK OBAMA: This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It’s why so many employers – especially small businesses – are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It’s why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally – like our automakers – are at a huge disadvantage. And it’s why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it – about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else’s emergency room and charitable care.
On Gingrich’s statement, I’ll say the same thing that I did after the September 2009 speech: such cost-shifting only accounts for a paltry 1.7 percent increase in private insurance premiums, and “uncompensated care” only accounted for less than 2.5 percent of total health care spending in 2008. For more, see a great piece entitled The Health Care Cost Shifting Myth by Austin Frakt over at The Health Care Blog. Meanwhile, for further comment on Newt Gingrich’s health care statements yesterday, I’ll defer to some other sources (quotes courtesy NewsMax):
Gingrich’s position quickly came under fire from several conservative blogs on Sunday.
“He tried to distinguish his mandate from the Obama mandate, but with little success,” the American Federalist Journal wrote on Sunday.
“Sandbagging your fellow Republicans in Congress and offering tacit support for a key (unconstitutional) component of Obamacare is a very strange way to begin a run in a Republican primary. Not a strong start.”
The Wall Street Journal called Gingrich’s description of an ideal healthcare plan with mandates a “pretty good description of what the Democratic Congress passed into law last year.”
The Journal continued: “Beginning in 2014, most Americans who don’t have insurance will be required to pay a fee, with many, depending on income, getting subsidies to help buy coverage through state-based exchanges.”
The conservative website Red State said Gingrich “won’t exactly endear him to the Tea Party crowd or the reform minded movement sweeping the GOP.”
I don’t know how much it will matter. This single issue could ground the former Speaker’s campaign before it even had the chance to get off the ground. My only question is whether Newt will go so far as Nancy Pelosi and recommend that uninsured Americans be imprisoned?
So, perhaps a review is in order. Mitt Romney may have been able to explain away his shift on social issues–and, if not, those inconsistencies would certainly have taken a back seat to fiscal policy in a decidedly economy-based electoral season–but the landmark piece of legislation from his gubernatorial days is inescapable. Newt Gingrich, who once sat on a loveseat with Nancy Pelosi and decried the effects of climate change, has remained consistent in his support of the unconstitutional individual mandate which is at the heart of ObamaCare. Tim Pawlenty has been pushed into a corner and forced to admit that his prior support of cap-and-trade legislation was a “mistake.” Rick Santorum is angering blacks and women and black women. Mike Huckabee spoke with God, and God thankfully told him not to run.
Could it be that primary season attrition is already at hand? And what–or rather who–does that leave us? My brief impressions:
- Herman Cain is a phenomenal speaker, but seems a difficult time going off-script. I believe that he, like Mitt Romney, has the business sense, leadership and know-how to make a pretty good president, but the realities of a presidential election in 21st century America would prevent him from gaining the nomination or the Oval Office.
- If Ron Paul were better-looking and more PR-savvy, he would be a force to be reckoned with. 90 percent of everything he says is absolutely, positively correct, but the remaining 10 percent runs afoul of common sense and reality. If Congressman Paul had a better filter and could avoid polluting the 90 percent with the 10 percent, he’d be a shoe-in. Unfortunately, Ron Paul is Ron Paul. We just have to pray that he doesn’t abandon the GOP for a third-party run.
- Donald Trump has a specific role in this primary — to bring the realities of America’s pending big-picture fiscal crisis to the Access Hollywood crowd, allowing for people who don’t normally pay attention to politics to hear from a quasi-celebrity what Paul Ryan has been trying to explain for years now. Beyond that role, I hope that The Donald goes away.
- Sarah Palin is, by all means, ready for prime time. She has executive experience. She is an experienced campaigner, and knows how to raise money. She has learned since 2008, and recently has shown command of issues both foreign and domestic. She is polished. She is dynamic. Unlike in 2008, she can command an interview. The problem, however, is that there is still an enormous section of the American populace for whom Sarah Palin is a complete non-starter. She could develop a cure for cancer and turn fruit punch into gasoline during a presidential debate and she still could not command respect from many. It’s unfortunate, but true.
- Michele Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and others have yet to show me that they’re running.
So, who does that leave?