WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney’s campaign is facing conservative backlash against a spokeswoman’s comments highlighting the Massachusetts health care law, illustrating the latent distrust among some in his party just weeks before Romney receives the Republican presidential nomination.
The dissent came after Romney press secretary Andrea Saul appeared on Fox News on Wednesday to rebut an ad run by a Democratic super PAC. The ad – largely discredited by fact-checking organizations -- suggests Romney is to blame for a woman’s death because her husband lost his health insurance when he was laid off from a company owned by Bain Capital.
Saul called the ad misleading and disingenuous, but then highlighted an inconvenient fact: If the man had lived in Massachusetts, where Romney spearheaded a law covering nearly everyone, he would have had health care coverage.
“To that point, you know, if people had been in Massachusetts, under Governor Romney’s health care plan, they would have had health care,” Saul said.
The conservative criticism was fierce and immediate.
Erick Erickson, a prominent blogger, said it could “mark the day the Romney campaign died.” He also called it a “‘Read My Lips’ moment of betrayal,” in reference to President George H.W. Bush’s violation of a pledge not to raise taxes.
“Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again,” Erickson wrote.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter bitterly complained, saying donors should stop contributing to Romney until Saul is fired. “There’s no point in us going to a convention and pushing for this man if he’s employing morons like this,” Coulter said.
Largely lost amid the hubbub was the fact that Saul was mostly articulating a point that Romney himself has made for more than a year: that he stands by the law he passed in Massachusetts, even though he opposes a federal law modeled after it.
“Overall am I proud of the fact that we did our best for our people and got people insured?” Romney said at a health care speech in Michigan in May 2011. “Absolutely.”