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SALT LAKE CITY — Tim Pawlenty once said that Mitt Romney's healthcare program in Massachusetts was so similar to Obamacare that they should be called "Obamneycare."
Previously, Romney has attacked Obamacare and said it would be the first thing he would undo when he is president. But Romney's spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, recently said on Fox News, "If people had been in Massachusetts under Governor Romney's health care plan, they would have had health care."
In Iowa, Romney seemed to suggest that Romneycare qualifies him to reform Obamacare: "We've got to do some reforms in health care, and I have some experience doing that as you know."
It is not yet clear whether this is a pivot in the direction of Romney's campaign or whether this is another campaign gaffe. In either case, it creates some risk for Romney, because Obama's healthcare law really motivates the GOP base against the president.
Rush Limbaugh was quick to say, "Andrea Saul's appearance on Fox was a potential gold mine for Obama supporters." Conservative commentator Philip Klein said, "Not sure if the Romney camp realizes what a huge opening they've just created for Ds on Obamacare."
Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState.com, agreed and tweeted: "OMG. This might just be the moment Mitt Romney lost the election. Wow." He said that Saul's remark was "an unforced error of monumental idiocy" that would revive conservative suspicions about Romney. On his blog, he compared it to George H.W. Bush's "Read My Lips" betrayal of conservative supporters.
This might just be the moment Mitt Romney lost the election.
–Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState.com
However, some smart people think it makes no difference whether Romney distances himself from Romneycare or now supports it.
Pollster Brad Corker, for example, said conservatives dislike Obama so much that they are unlikely to stay home on November 6th. Republican election expert, James E. Campbell, of the University of Buffalo, said voters will forget about Bain Capital, Romney's tax returns, his overseas gaffes, and Romneycare. He said these are side issues and distractions, because this presidential election will be primarily about the one thing that is most important to American voters: the economy.
And everybody knows the economy is on life support.