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Romney tries to pivot on health care


METAIRIE, La. --  Mitt Romney marked the second anniversary of the passage of President Obama's controversial health care reform law by labeling the legislation the "centerpiece" of a failed presidency, and calling for its immediate repeal and replacement.

"You’ll note the White House is not celebrating Obamacare today," Romney opened his remarks in this New Orleans suburb. "They don’t have any big big ceremony going on. The president is not giving speeches on Obamacare and that’s for a reason. Most Americans want to get rid of it and we're among those Americans, I want to get rid of it too."

In an editorial this morning in USA Today, Romney went further in his assault, ripping the law as a "unfolding disaster for the American economy, a budget-busting entitlement, and a dramatic new federal intrusion into our lives."

The law's anniversary, and the opening next Monday of arguments before the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality, have thrust health care back into the national spotlight. For Romney, that spotlight represents both an opportunity and a challenge. The national health law was modeled, in large part, on Romney's own Massachusetts law, which Romney has defended as right for his state, while simultaneously describing the federal law as a massive government overreach.

Fully convincing hold-out conservative voters that his opposition to the federal law is genuine and that he would fight for its repeal would be a victory for the Romney campaign, but each day his opponents can remind those same voters of the link between "RomneyCare" and his defense of a mandate in Massachusetts and "ObamaCare" is another day with an albatross around Romney's neck.

Today, Romney tried a new tack, linking his opposition to the national law to his recently updated rhetoric on economic freedom, calling the law "one more example of a president pursuing his attack on economic and personal liberty," and vowing to introduce market and state-based reforms in its place.

He even went so far as to invoke the religious freedom-birth control debate.

"This is a piece of legislation that is very different than what people were told when it was being sold by the administration,” Romney contended. “We learned some other things about it in the past few weeks. One was that the Catholic Church is being told that they have to provide insurance that covers morning after pills, sterilization and contraception despite that fact that these very features violate the conscious of the catholic church itself. So the legislation not only is expensive, not only will cause people to lose their coverage that they wanted in some cases it also intrudes upon religions liberty. it's amazing how many things are wrong with it. I've got a whole list here."

Romney laid out his own vision for health care reform without a federal law, including -- including changing the tax structure to be more favorable to individuals buying their own insurance, block-granting Medicaid back to states and fighting "out of control" malpractice litigation -- quickly drew return fire from President Obama's campaign.

“It’s been six years since the Massachusetts health reform law passed, and it’s amazing how far Mitt Romney has come in his beliefs," Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt wrote in a statement. "It’s bad enough that he no longer stands by his only accomplishment as governor, but it’s worse that he thinks its ok to let insurance companies to write their own rules while leaving seniors and Americans that get sick to fend for themselves even if it means bankrupting them.”