ByÂ Matt Viser, Boston Globe
MANCHESTER, N.H. â€” Mitt Romney offered a tepid defense of the Massachusetts health care law, suggesting to an audience last night at the Granite Stateâ€™s first forum of the 2012 presidential campaign that he would sign it again if given the chance.
â€œI went to work to try and solve a problem,â€™â€™ Romney said. â€œIt may not be perfect â€” by the way, it is not perfect.â€™â€™
The statement was in response to a question asked of the former Massachusetts governor after he delivered a short address that was equal parts patriotic fervor and attacks on President Obamaâ€™s economic policies. For many Republican voters, however, how Romney handles the health care question could determine the success of his expected candidacy.
â€œI was hoping Iâ€™d get that question,â€™â€™ Romney joked before launching into the reasons he backed the state efforts to vastly extend health care coverage when he was governor. Massachusetts, he contended, had to do something to control rising health care costs and persuade residents to buy insurance rather than go to emergency rooms for care.
â€œIn my state, we were spending hundreds of millions of dollars giving out free care to people who could take care of themselves,â€™â€™ Romney said.
â€œSome parts of that experiment worked, some parts didnâ€™t, some parts Iâ€™d change,â€™â€™ Romney said.
But as he defended the state plan, he again called for repeal of Obamaâ€™s national overhaul, saying it unfairly mandates a one-size-fits-all system on each state.
Romney joined four other prospective GOP candidates â€” former governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and businessman Herman Cain â€” at the forum held to discuss economic issues and budget priorities.
Romney stumbled slightly over his response to one question. Echoing Ronald Reaganâ€™s use of a â€œMisery Indexâ€™â€™ to criticize Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, Romney talked about an â€œObama Misery Index.â€™â€™
â€œWeâ€™re going to have to hang the Obama misery index around his neck,â€™â€™ he said. â€œThe fact that youâ€™ve got people in this country really squeezed â€” with gasoline getting so expensive, commodities getting so expensive; families are having a hard time making ends meet. . . . Weâ€™re going to hang him with that, uh, so to speak, metaphorically. You have to be careful these days, Iâ€™ve learned that.â€™â€™
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