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Payback sweet for Republicans as Obama and Obamacare stumble

For Republicans who found themselves on the losing end in November — and particularly the Republican who lost to President Obama — the events of the last few weeks have been sweet comeuppance.

First the website portal for Obamacare, the healthcare plan the GOP had railed against throughout 2012, collapsed at its Oct. 1 opening. Then the president was forced to acknowledge that, contrary to his oft-uttered line, some people would lose their insurance policies as a result of his plan. Then came Thursday’s televised mea culpa, when the president repeatedly blamed himself for the mess, acknowledged his personal imperfections and promised anew that things would get better.

Healthcare was a big component of the presidential campaign; beside touting his own plan, Obama lanced Mitt Romney for favoring a universal coverage plan as governor of Massachusetts and opposing the national effort. The issue became a stand-in for accusations by Democrats that Romney was unprincipled and gravitated to the position most politically helpful at the time.

So Friday was payback time.

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Romney, appearing with his wife, Ann, on CBS This Morning, said that events had confirmed it was Obama who was flawed.

“I think a lot of people recognize the flaws in the Obamacare product,” he said, hitting Obama particularly hard on the pledge that people could keep their policies: “That promise was not accurate, it was not honest and the whole foundation I think of his second term is in jeopardy.”

Ultimately, Romney said, the website will be fixed, but the stain of the broken promise will remain.

“It’s dishonest,” he said. “What starts twisted, stays twisted.”

Romney himself inserted a little twist when he was asked about the Republican Party's demographic woes. He acknowledged that  the party needed to “do a better job communicating our message to a broader number of folks”, and said that his campaign failed to attract sufficient black and Latino voters.

(He did not repeat his controversial post-election assertion that Obama bought the election with “the gifts” he gave to blacks, Latinos and young voters.)

Success depended in part, he said, on the party moving ahead on immigration reform, which has been bottled up in the Republican-led House.

"I do believe those who come here illegally ought to have an opportunity to get in line with everybody else,” Romney said. “I don't think those who come here illegally should jump to the front of the line or be given a special deal, be rewarded for coming here illegally; but I think they should have a chance just like anybody else to get in line and to become a citizen if they'd like to do so."

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That seemed to skip a few steps from Romney’s approach as he sought his party’s nomination. He blistered both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for holding more moderate positions on immigration than his own, and insisted that immigrants here illegally had to return to their home nations before being considered for legal status.

During a January 2012 debate in Florida, Romney was asked about his position.

"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here, because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," he said.

"The way that we have in this society is to say, look, people who have come here illegally would, under my plan, be given a transition period and the opportunity during that transition period to work here, but when that transition period was over, they would no longer have the documentation to allow them to work in this country. At that point, they can decide whether to remain or whether to return home and to apply for legal residency in the United States, get in line with everybody else. And I know people think, but that's not fair to those that have come here illegally."

Regardless of the specifics, it was clear from the interview that Romney will not  be pressing this argument on his own behalf in some future campaign.

He indicated that he relished a position as senior statesman, helping to guide the GOP in the direction he saw fit. But to a question about entering any upcoming races, Ann Romney put her hands to his ears and firmly moved his head from left to right and back again.

In other words, no.

cathleen.decker@latimes.com

Twitter: @cathleendecker

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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