Mitt Romney might find it a bit awkward to conduct the usual endorsement and strategy meetings with fellow Republicans this campaign season.
Romney hasn’t announced he is running for president, though he has been raising money for months toward that potential jump. But while the former Massachusetts governor starts out with some solid advantages—he has private sector experience, his appeal goes beyond the right wing of his party, and he hasn’t debased himself with a reality TV show—he’s already being undone by Team GOP lawmakers in Washington.
In one of the more tiresome charades of this legislative session, senators have taken to the floor to call for a repeal of the healthcare law. It’s a futile effort. But, of course, it has nothing to do with the legislating taxpayers sent their representatives to Washington to do. It has everything to do with the 2012 campaign for Congress and the White House. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should the healthcare law be repealed?]
Republicans want to prove to supporters that they are paying attention to their anti-healthcare law agenda by voting to repeal it. This is easier than doing something more substantive, such as actually coming up with elements of the law they could work with Democrats to change. Democrats are allowing the Senate vote to occur to prove they are not ashamed of their earlier votes and to show that they are not using the rules to silence the minority. This is actually a fairly generous move, since silencing the minority is the only real power the majority has anymore; reckless filibuster threats have ensured that the minority is really in control of the Senate. That doesn’t make it any less a waste of time. [See a slide show of 10 ways the GOP can take down Obamacare.]
But if Republicans are so sure this theater will help their presidential nominee in 2012, they must be assuming Romney won’t get the nod. GOP senators can call the law "Obamacare" as often as they like, but the fact remains: A Democratic Congress may have passed healthcare overhaul, and President Obama may have signed it, but Romney started it. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons about the GOP.]
Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina joined others in damning as "unconstitutional" the mandatory health insurance requirement. That’s a great sound bite for an opposing campaign to use against Romney, whose Massachusetts health law includes mandatory coverage as a signature feature. In a primary, it creates an environment where the healthcare battle will be happening within the Republican party, weakening the candidates and splintering a party that needs to be united to defeat Obama. And if Romney seeks and achieves the nomination, the issue Republicans are so certain will spell disaster for Democrats in 2012 will be moot.