By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Mitt Romney has got a lot of explaining to do about how his approach to health care reform has changed between the time he served as governor of Massachusetts and now as he stands on the threshold of his second White House bid.
Romney is set to deliver a speech this afternoon at a university cardiovascular center in Michigan laying out his vision for reforming nation’s health system and, he hopes, one that will win over potential GOP voters who are concerned that he signed a Massachusetts health care law that bears striking similarities to the one backed by President Obama.
“If I am elected president, I will issue on my first day in office an executive order paving the way for waivers from ObamaCare for all 50 states,” Romney wrote in an Op-Ed in USA Today yesterday. “Subsequently, I will call on Congress to fully repeal ObamaCare.” http://usat.ly/jvqbcr
Today, using a PowerPoint presentation, Romney plans to outline five steps to reform the current system: (1) “Give states the responsibility, flexibility and resources to care for citizens who are poor, uninsured or chronically ill”; (2) “Reform the tax code to promote the individual ownership of health insurance”; (3) “Focus federal regulation of health care on making markets work”; (4) “Reform medical liability”; (5) “Make health care more like a consumer market and less like a government program.”
But it’s not so much the nitty-gritty details of Romney’s plan that are likely to matter most today, it’s the explanation he will offer to conservatives about why he passed in Massachusetts a law that includes an individual mandate for health care much like the one built into the Obama administration’s health care reform law.
The Democratic National Committee is already on offense mocking Romney with “missing slides” from his PowerPoint presentation detailing “his previous positions including his support for an individual mandate at a federal level as far back as 1994 and as late as 2009, his championing — along with Ted Kennedy — and signing into law health care reform in Massachusetts with an individual mandate, which he called ‘a model for the nation,’ to Romneycare being hailed as a model for the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama.”
“What I think is unfortunate about Mitt Romney is he doesn’t even know who he is,” DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in an interview on “Good Morning America” today, adding that he is “twisting his head into a pretzel.”
BOTTOM LINE: Romney is unlikely to make anyone happy with the speech he will deliver at 2 p.m. ET. And it’s not just Democrats who have launched pre-emptive strikes. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board issued a damning screed this morning calling Romney’s past support for the Massachusetts health care law a “fatal flaw.”
“The debate over ObamaCare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election,” according to the Journal editorial. “On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.” http://on.wsj.com/kEbtlV
And nothing Romney wrote in his own Op-Ed yesterday suggests that he's going to address health care reform any differently than he already has been doing. His strategy is to put the issue out there now so he doesn’t have to keep answering questions about whether he will address the issue.
But it doesn't mean Romney’s health care problems are anywhere close to being over. It does mean we can stop wondering if he's going to change his tact on the issue. Don’t forget the title of his 2010 book is “No Apology.”
NOTE: Has House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., made PowerPoint “cool” again or has it just become the best way for politicians to try to deal with controversial and uncomfortable topics?
MEANWHILE IN INDIANA. The state’s First Lady Cheri Daniels, wife of governor and potential presidential candidate Mitch Daniels will deliver a much-anticipated speech tonight at an Indiana GOP event. Mrs. Daniels is said to be one of the biggest factors holding her husband back from getting into the presidential race, and it’s unclear whether she will address those concerns tonight. For his part, Gov. Daniels is sounding as wishy-washy as ever on a presidential bid. “I think someone who presents a positive and specific alternative to what I think are catastrophic economic policies,” Daniels said at an event yesterday, “would get respectful listens from Americans and have a chance. Maybe I could do that maybe someone else could do it better.”
Today The New York Times profiles Cheri Daniels: “Cheri Daniels has made no secret of her distaste for politics. She did not campaign for her husband, Mitch Daniels, during two races for governor. She did not fully move into the governor’s mansion after his election. She has never delivered a political speech,” writes The Times’ Jeff Zeleny. “While much is known about Mr. Daniels in Republican circles, where he is viewed as a fiscally focused, budget-cutting, pragmatic-thinking conservative, there is one period of his life that has remained almost entirely private — until now. He has been married twice — to the same wife. Should he run, that chapter in his life would no doubt be picked over in public and become a part of the personal narrative that springs up around any serious candidate: in this case a three-year gap in their marriage in the 1990s, when she filed for divorce, moved to California with a new husband and left Mr. Daniels to raise their four daughters, then ages 8 to 14. She later returned and remarried him.” http://nyti.ms/mOa4dU
ON TODAY’S EXTENDED EDITION OF “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl host a “Top Line,” trifecta today, including an interview with former New York Yankee Bernie Williams, who was on Capitol Hill yesterday lobbying for more money for music programs in schools. Also on the program, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, And, finally, a conversation with Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Watch the special edition of “Top Line” LIVE at a special time — 11:55 a.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
CONGRESS TO GRILL BIG OIL BOSSES. “Congress will grill Big Oil executives at what is likely to be a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill today amid widespread anger over high gas prices,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports. “The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Montana Democrat Max Baucus, is poised to question Chevron's John Watson, Shell's Marvin Odum, BP's Lamar McKay, ConocoPhillips' James Mulva, and Exxon's Rex Tillerson. It is all part of an effort by Democrats to push a new bill that would scrap tax breaks for the five companies, the biggest and most profitable ones in the country. Democrats want to cut about $2 billion per year in tax subsidies for the companies and use the savings to pay down the nation's soaring federal deficit. … The Senate is set to vote on the measure sometime in the next week, but its chances of passing appear slim to none. The measure will need 60 votes to pass, a tall order in a chamber where there are only 53 Democrats and even some of them — such as Alaska's Mark Begich and Louisiana's Mary Landrieu — don't support the measure.” http://abcn.ws/kCZjIq
GROUP LAUNCHES PUSH TO JUMP-START GULF OIL DRILLING. A non-profit group that supports a free-market approach to national energy policy is unveiling a new online effort today seeking to pressure the Obama administration to lift its “de facto drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico.” The Institute for Energy Research’s new website, called “Stop the Energy Freeze,” http://www.stoptheenergyfreeze.com/ includes petition to President Obama to expedite drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, videos of those impacted along the Gulf coast, research materials, and an online discussion section. The group has also unveiled a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/stoptheenergyfreeze, which has already attracted 175,000 “likes” since it soft-launch at the end of April. “Our 'Stop the Energy Freeze' campaign will educate and mobilize Americans who support the idea that renewed drilling in the Gulf not only helps meet our growing energy demand, but also creates jobs and has a positive ripple effect throughout the entire economy,” Tom Pyle, president of the Institute said in a statement. “The Administration is attempting to hide behind a scant, few drilling permits recently issued for Gulf waters, but this slow pace is not enough to avert a national energy shortfall.”
OBAMA STEERS CLEAR OF COMMON CONTROVERSY. “Without mention of controversy surrounding Common’s performance, President Obama welcomed an audience to the White House poetry night, revealing that he, too, considers himself a poet,” ABC’s Sunlen Miller reported from last night’s event in Washington. “The much anticipated Common recited lyrics to a rap song in poem form, which tipped his hat to the nation’s first African American president and started and ended with words of Martin Luther King playing over the loud speaker.” http://abcn.ws/m25YBu
As ABC’s Jake Tapper noted in his “Good Morning America” report, Common is not particularly controversial, he's not a gangsta’ rapper, he's been in a Jonas Brothers song and even Gap ads. His songs focus generally on love, fatherhood, and improving the state of black America, but the poet/hip-hop artist is not without his moments of edginess. In a song from 11 years ago Common praised a fugitive convicted of brutally murdering a state trooper in 1973, which led the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association to take issue with Common's inclusion at the White House event, noting that this is "Police Week" in Washington, DC. More from Jake’s GMA report: http://abcn.ws/jsxXxs
PALIN WEIGHS IN: “Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin weighed in on the Common controversy Wednesday night during an appearance on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” ABC’s Katie Slaman notes. Palin lashed out at President Barack Obama for inviting the hip-hop artist to the White House poetry event. “The judgment is just so lacking of class and decency and all that’s good about America with an invite like this,” she said. “They’re just inviting someone like me or someone else to ask, ‘C’mon Barack Obama who are you palling around with now?’” The former vice presidential candidate went on to assure Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that she was not trying to stifle free speech and also emphasized that she’s not “anti-rap,” pointing out that she knows the lyrics to Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” http://abcn.ws/khHOeh
DNC CHAIRWOMAN ON GABBY GIFFORDS: ‘SHE’S GOING TO COME BACK.’ That's what Rep. Gabby Giffords' good friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning Amerca" today when he asked her if the Arizona Democrat would return to Congress. “I do think she’s going to come back to Congress. I mean the progress that she’s making I think that from what I understand she’s on track for that to happen,” the new head of the Democratic National Committee said. “Not sure when, but she’s making tremendous progress.” Wasserman Schultz had dinner with Giffords in Houston on Friday, she said, after Giffords returned from Florida where she had hoped to see her husband off on the Endeavour launch. Her recovery from the January gunshot wound to the head is going well and Giffords is beginning to walk instead of using a wheel chair, Wasserman Schultz said. “[She] is responding in more complex sentences. So she’s making progress. She’s got a long way to go but we’re all so proud of her, she’s doing great,” Wasserman Schultz said. http://abcn.ws/j8wPY4
GINGRICH ON OBAMA: HE’LL ‘SAY WHATEVER HE NEEDS TO WIN’. “Hours after announcing his candidacy via Twitter, Newt Gingrich took to the airwaves tonight for the first time as an official presidential candidate, acknowledging the political landscape has changed since his last time in office 12 years ago when "Seinfeld," the Spice Girls and pagers reigned,” ABC’s Arlette Saenz notes. “‘A lot has changed, and I think for the country the fascinating thing is that there's a lot of principles that haven't changed,’ Gingrich said on Fox News' Hannity show. ‘I think if you apply the right principles to achieve the right results, that we can win the future together. I don't think that having a president who applies the wrong principles and gets the wrong results is going to lead to winning the future.’ Gingrich credited his desire to be the next president to his family's commitment to ‘duty, honor, country,’ the need to rid the country of liberal policies, and his dedication to citizenship. … Gingrich conceded President Obama will be tough to beat in 2012, saying the president will ‘say whatever he needs to win’ and will be aided by the mainstream media, left-wing billionaires, unions and the Hollywood crowd working to pump money into the billion-dollar Obama campaign. ‘He can't afford to run in a fair election,’ Gingrich said. ‘If he was on an equal playing field, he'd lose – on his record, on his values, on his beliefs.’ http://abcn.ws/jzkZt2
HUNTSMAN REMAINS COY. Time Magazine’s Melinda Hennenberger writes that “in several sittings and a couple of hours together over a week's time, I don't even come close to getting” former U.S. Ambassador to China and potential presidential candidate Jon Huntsman “to spill such puny secrets as whether he thinks we should be in Afghanistan or Libya ("There will be more to say about that"), in what ways he disagrees with Obama ("I don't want to get into specifics") or, for that matter, where he parts company with his fellow Republicans, including his distant cousin, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ("It wouldn't be fair to offer an opinion without doing due diligence"). And as for whether or not Huntsman still belongs to the Church of Latter-day Saints, I know less than I did before I asked him. ("I'm a very spiritual person," as opposed to a religious one, he says, "and proud of my Mormon roots." Roots? That makes it sound as if you're not a member anymore. Are you? "That's tough to define," he says. "There are varying degrees. I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.") So careful that he's disinclined to weigh in on any matter on which he hasn't been fully briefed or made up his mind, Huntsman is nonetheless plenty open about wanting to compete for Obama's job.” http://ti.me/iBUegX
@mkhammer: Rep. Michele Bachmann says we'll know in June about her decision on 2012.
* Rick Santorum will speak at Nashua Area Republican City Committee meeting in Nashua, NH.
* Rudy Giuliani speaks at a dinner for Ovide Lamontagne's Granite Oath PAC in Manchester, NH.
* Indiana First Lady Cheri Daniels, wife of potential GOP presidential candidate Mitch Daniels, will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Republicans State Dinner.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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