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Mitt Romney: "Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare"

"Yeah, I'll take credit!"
"Yeah, I'll take credit!"
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

On Friday, Mitt Romney made a startling statement to the Boston Globe's Taryn Luna: He argued that without "Romneycare," the universal health care plan he signed into law as Massachusetts governor, Obamacare would never have become law.

Speaking after the death of his friend and political ally Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples, Romney said that Stemberg encouraged him to pursue health care reform. That, Romney argued, led indirectly to Obamacare. Moreover, Romney argues that's a good thing: "So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn't have health insurance."

This is, to put it mildly, a rather different message from the one Romney was putting forward as a GOP presidential candidate three years ago. In May 2011, his campaign released a 25-page presentation trying to distinguish Romneycare from Obamacare. When President Obama argued that the two were similar at an October 2012 debate, Romney pushed backed strongly: "I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote. … What were some differences? We didn't raise taxes. You've raised them by $1 trillion under Obamacare. We didn't cut Medicare. Of course, we don't have Medicare, but we didn't cut Medicare by $716 billion. We didn't put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they're going to receive."

Obama shrugged the reply aside, saying, "I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers, and they say it's the same plan." He was right. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who is now a widely reviled figure among Republicans, helped craft both plans. Both relied on individual mandates, health exchanges, and subsidies for the uninsured. They're very, very similar plans. And Romney is finally embracing — and taking credit for — that fact.

Update: On Friday afternoon, Romney took to Facebook to try to walk back his comments to the Globe, insisting that he still opposes Obamacare:

Getting people health insurance is a good thing, and that’s what Tom Stemberg fought for. I oppose Obamacare and believe...

Posted by Mitt Romney on Friday, October 23, 2015

But he conspicuously does not dispute the Globe's quote, which implies a rather different view.