Desperate to remove the indelible stigma of his Massachusetts health care reform legislation, Mitt Romney may well have overreached by endorsing the Congressional Republican scheme to replace Medicare with a costly, medically inadequate voucher system. No doubt Romney meant to distance himself not only from his own record but also from Newt Gingrich, the GOP front-runner who denounced the same scheme — authored by House Budget chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — as “right-wing social engineering” last spring.
Whether Republican voters will buy this latest renovation of Romney remains to be seen. What we already know, however, is that most voters, including Republicans and Tea Party zealots, prefer Medicare as it is and disdain politicians who want to dismantle it. Although comfortable conservative pundits love the Ryan budget and dream of killing Medicare, the program’s popularity is well known among Republicans who must actually face voters in the coming year. Many of them have tried to avoid the question altogether or have defended traditional Medicare from the House Republican assault.