Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and fellow Republicans are going after President Barack Obama this week on what they're labeling as his record of broken promises, now that the president's signature healthcare reform law has been rendered constitutional. Republicans, no longer able to claim that the measure is an illegal expansion of government, are hammering him for over-billing the measure's benefits.
"As a candidate, Obama promised that his healthcare reform would save American families $2,500 a year by the end of his first term," wrote the Republican National Committee in a release, citing a campaign speech Obama gave in 2008.
The RNC pointed out that according to Kaiser Family Foundation research healthcare premiums have generally increased under the Obama administration.
The Romney campaign is also trying to capitalize on the failed promise and sent out their own release referencing it soon after the RNC.
"President Obama campaigned for office on a very specific promise to decrease health care premiums by $2,500. By his own standard, the president has failed and middle-class families are the ones suffering the consequences," said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman. "It's time for President Obama to take responsibility for his middle-class promise gap. And it's time for a new direction and new president who will finally deliver change for struggling middle-class families."
Healthcare premiums have been steadily rising for at least a decade and most provisions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, won't take effect until 2014. But that doesn't mean the Republicans' strategy will be ineffective. The Obama campaign is struggling to hang on to and motivate voters who turned out to support him in 2008 but have been disillusioned by his failure to make good on some of his campaign promises, including immigration reform or climate change legislation.
The RNC is also hoping to tap into voter frustration on other issues, such as the economy, deficit reduction and energy policy, creating a website chronicling the "Top 10 Obama Failed Promises."
Meanwhile Democrats are pounding Romney on what they consider his hypocritical opposition to the healthcare law, which was based on legislation he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. It's a vulnerability that dogged Romney throughout the primary campaign as his opponents noted it would be difficult for Romney to go hard at Obama on one of the top issues for Republicans.
On Monday, the GOP concerns proved valid as NBC's Chuck Todd pressed top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom to explain the difference between the mandate to buy health insurance that Romney approved of in Massachusetts and the federal mandate signed by Obama that he disapproves of. Republicans have been making hay with the Supreme Court ruling that deemed the mandate a tax, because of the penalty people would have to pay if they do not purchase health insurance starting in 2014.
"The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax," Fehrnstrom said on MSNBC's 'Daily Rundown' on Monday.
It's doubtful that the semantics over whether the mandate is considered a 'penalty' or a 'tax' will be a major factor in the election. But two things that will be consequential are Romney's ability to square his support for the Massachusetts healthcare law with his opposition to the federal one and Obama's effectiveness in persuading voters he can fulfill old and new campaign promises in another term.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.