Mitt Romney deflects Huckabee's criticism of Massachusetts health care law

Mitt Romney speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has yet to officially enter the 2012 presidential contest, but he's offering a preview of how he would defend the statewide health care reforms he implemented in Massachusetts, which were said to have inspired President Obama's health care package.

"Mitt Romney is proud of what he accomplished for Massachusetts in getting everyone covered," Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Boston Globe in response to criticism of Romney's reforms. "What's important now is to return to the states the power to determine their own health care solutions by repealing Obamacare. A one-size-fits-all plan for the entire nation just doesn't work."

The comparisons between so-called "Romneycare" and "Obamacare" will present a considerable challenge to Romney when and if he enters the presidential race.

One of his potential Republican primary rivals, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, lays out the argument against Romney's plan in his new book "A Simple Government."

"It could be argued that if RomneyCare were a patient, the prognosis would be dismal," Huckabee writes. "Any critical assessment of this program will show that it failed... and yet the Obama administration decided to emulate it in its pursuit of a national health-care program."

Romney seemed to take note of the problems his health care reforms could create when he released the paperback version of his book, "No Apology." In that version, as the Boston Phoenix reported at the time, Romney made some changes to the portion of the book dedicated to health care reform.

In the original version, Romney laid out the nuances between the Massachusetts law and the a nationwide plan. In the second version released last year, he blamed the state legislature and the new Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, for botching the plan's implementation. He also pushed back harder against Mr. Obama's health care plan, calling for its repeal.

Huckabee's criticisms of Romney's health care reforms are in the spotlight this week as Huckabee promotes his book and mulls over his own possible presidential bid. In an interview with John Dickerson this week on CBSNews.com's "Washington Unplugged," Huckabee said that he decides to run again, "I don't want to lose. I've got to believe I can win."

Huckabee added that he will not be basing his decision on who else enters the race.

A Gallup poll released this week showed this week that Republicans and Republican-leaning voters have no clear favorite out of the potential 2012 nominees, but that Huckabee and Romney are at the top of the pack. Huckabee won the most support with 18 percent, followed by Romney with 16 percent. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also garnered 16 percent, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich received support from 9 percent.

In a subsequent poll, Gallup asked Republican and Republican leaning voters which issues were most important to them. Given four choices, 35 percent said "government spending and power" was the most important issue. Another 31 percent named "business and the economy." Seventeen percent chose "social and moral values," while 15 percent chose "national security and foreign policy."

Among those interested in "government spending and power," 18 percent said Huckabee was the best possible candidate, while 17 percent chose Romney.

Those focused on the economy mostly favor Romney (20 percent) or Palin (17 percent), while Republicans who say social and moral values are most important favor Huckabee (28 percent) or Palin (19 percent).

Palin received the most support (22 percent) among those interested in national security and foreign policy, followed by Huckabee at 20 percent.

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