Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney jumped into the 2012 presidential race today with a video that reminds voters of one of his greatest strengths as a candidate: his economic credentials. Democrats, meanwhile, are busy reminding voters of one of his biggest weaknesses as a candidate in the Republican presidential primary: his association with health care reform.
Democratic officials in key primary states are holding "celebrations" this week to mark the fifth-year anniversary of the health care plan Romney implemented in Massachusetts.
The White House has said the nation has Romney to thank for inspiring the president's health care overhaul. The administration has called the Massachusetts plan the "template" for its national reforms and even recruited a top Massachusetts health care administrator to help establish the new, nationwide changes. The comparison, of course, has proven to be a liability for Romney as the primaries draw near and as Romney continues to criticize Mr. Obama's health care reforms. The nationwide reforms are still controversial and especially unpopular with Republican voters.
So it was clearly tongue-in-cheek when the New Hampshire Democratic Party announced that tomorrow, politicians and health care advocates will hold an event to "thank Romney for providing the critical momentum necessary to get President Obama's vision of health reform through Congress and signed into law."
"Mitt Romney is nothing short of a founding father of modern health reform," reads a press release from the state party, "a person who has left an indelible mark on Massachusetts' health care reform as well as the national health reform law and its major elements, including the individual responsibility provision which is critical to making the law work and lowering costs for all who enter the system."
The "individual responsibility" element of the national reform package is one of the most heavily-criticized aspects of the president's plan and is the focus of multiple court challenges.
The Tuesday event in Concord will feature over-sized thank you card as well a birthday cake to mark the anniversary of Romney's plan.
Democrats in Iowa are holding a similar event at a children's furniture and accessories shop called Simply for Giggles, the Des Moines Register reports. The owner of the store has shared her story with the press about her struggle to obtain health care.
New Hampshire and Iowa are among the earliest states to hold presidential nominating contests and will prove critical in the Republican primaries. Romney's video today announcing his presidential exploratory committee was filmed in New Hampshire.
The Democratic National Committee says on its blog that other states are holding their own events to mark the anniversary of Romney's plan. It says the Massachusetts reforms "helped blaze a trail for progressive reform" and points out that Romney stood by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a liberal icon, as he signed the state reforms into law.
The DNC is encouraging its supporters to tweet, "Thanks @mittromney, founding father of health care reform, on its 5th bday! B/c of you, nat'l health care reform is a reality! #fitn #TYMitt."
Romney's camp has pushed back against the "celebrations." Referring to New Hampshire's event, complete with cake, senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN that "somehow I'm not surprised that Democrats are sitting around eating cake while 14 million unemployed Americans are struggling to put food on their table."