A Modest Proposal: The ObamneyCare Bus Tour

President Obama needs a game changer on health care — yes, the SCOTUS victory was big, but it’s not enough.  Democrats need a near-complete reframing of the issue.  Unfortunately, they lost the messaging battle over the ACA so badly the first time around that it’s going to be tough to make this happen.  Furthermore, Chief Justice Robert’s dubbing of the fine for not purchasing health insurance as a “tax” instead of a “penalty” has handed Republicans a new political weapon with which to bludgeon the president’s plan.  Rest assured, they will use it.

However, the SCOTUS ruling gives President Obama and the Democrats a small window of opportunity — the victory does give them some temporary momentum.  It may be a long shot, but Democrats need to swing for the fences if they hope to mitigate the damage health care could do to their chances this fall.  The Obama campaign needs to act swiftly and boldly — if they don’t take advantage of this wave they’re riding in the wake of their win at the Supreme Court, the issue will be lost for sure.  So here’s what I’ve got: The ObamneyCare Bus Tour.

Let me explain.  Whenever Bill Clinton won a legislative victory, he did a victory lap around the country letting people know what he’d just accomplished.  President Obama did no such thing after the passage of the ACA — now he’s got a second chance.  Unfortunately, though, it’s too late for just a run-of-the-mill bus tour.  He’s got to make this one different.  He’s got to be bold for the media to pay attention; for it to work, everyone in America needs to know about this tour.  That’s why he should issue an open — and very public — invitation to Mitt Romney to join him on the tour.

Here’s why: Mitt Romney and the Republicans’ biggest vulnerability on health care is that the Obamacare they love to hate so much was actually their idea in the first place.  As Mitt Romney admits here, the Obama administration modeled the national plan after the one Mitt Romney had crafted and signed while governor of Massachusetts.  The only way to take this issue off the table for the Republicans is to solidify in voters’ minds the Obamacare-Romneycare connection; the president should tie himself to Romney’s Massachusetts plan 100%.  Make anything bad that Mitt Romney says about the ACA seem like the shameless political pandering that it is.   That’s what the ObamneyCare Bus Tour would aim to do.

That’s why quite a stir has to be made about inviting Romney to join the president on the tour.  Obviously, he’s not coming along.  But the president should make it feel like the former governor is with him all the way.  Be quite adamant about the name “ObamneyCare Bus Tour.”  Make posters. Hang them high and wide.  The campaign could pitch the tour with something like

We figured since Romney’s plan in Massachusetts was our model for the national plan, he’d want to be here with us to celebrate this great victory for the American people.  Mitt Romney deserves a lot of credit.

On the stump, the president should make it explicitly clear that he used Mitt Romney and the Republicans’ idea for his health reform bill.  Something like

You know, Governor Romney and the Republicans came up with this great idea to cover everybody without having the government take over, and we liked it so much, we decided to use it ourselves.  All of a sudden though, once I put my name behind it, they were all against it.  Unfortunately, they made a choice not to do the hard thing, not to do what was right for the American people, but to do what was best for their party and their political careers.  And that’s a shame.  But I think Governor Romney knows better, and that’s why I offered him to join me anyway.  He deserves a lot of credit for the passage of this bill, and we named this tour after him to give him the recognition he deserves.

When the president is on the stump, he should quote at length from speeches Romney gave in support of the mandate.  There’s lots of good stuff from this Romney speech.  More video of Romney supporting the mandate here, plus a slew of Republicans doing the same in this ThinkProgress video.  Let Romney and his allies make the case for you.

This is also a great opportunity to let the American people know all the popular things that are in the bill that they didn’t hear about the first time.  Talk about the elimination of lifetime caps; how insurance companies can no longer deny people coverage based on preexisting conditions; how adult children can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26; how no one can be dropped from their insurance plan when they get sick; how seniors get $250 to fill the Medicare prescription drug donut hole — these are the highlights.

It would have to be announced Friday so it could take up the weekend news cycle and be big news on the Sunday shows.  The campaign should send top surrogates out to all the shows — Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, etc.  The tour could start on Monday at the state capital in Massachusetts — driving home the Romney home state connection — then could make its way across the country, hitting Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada.  Throughout the week, surrogates should be sent to all the morning shows — Today, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning — as well as the evening political shows.  Arm them with talking points (and make sure they stick to them — no Cory Booker moments) about the similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare as well as the popular provisions of the ACA that Romney now says he would repeal.  This has to be an all-out media blitz; we only get one shot at this.

Obviously, this sounds a little silly — and it is. But it’s great political theatre, and it would capture the attention of the punditry.  At the very least, the media will spend the week saying the phrase “ObamneyCare,” which hits at the whole point of the charade: solidifying the connection between what the Supreme Court just upheld and what Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts.  When it comes down to it, they’re virtually the same exact thing.  Once voters know that, they’ll see Mitt Romney’s attacks on Obamacare as the shameless, disingenuous political pandering that they really are.

In the 2010 midterms we saw can happen when Democrats let Republicans dominate the discussion on health care.  If Democrats don’t do everything they can to neutralize this issue in 2012, they risk repeating that fate.  If that means doing something as outlandish as an ObamneyCare Bus Tour, so be it.

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About Hammertime
Georgetown sophomore, Job Creator.

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