Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney surprised political observers Friday by saying: “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare.”

His comments came in a obituary of Thomas Stemberg, the founder of Staples, who died Friday. Staples opened in 1986 with the help of Romney and his firm Bain Capital.

Romney is quoted in a Boston Globe story saying Stemberg encouraged him to implement a healthcare law in Massachusetts while governor.

Romney also credited Mr. Stemberg with persuading him to push for health care reform in Massachusetts when he was governor.

Romney said that shortly after he was elected, Mr. Stemberg asked him why he ran for governor. Romney said he told him that he wanted to help people, and Mr. Stemberg replied that if he really wanted to help, he should give everyone access to health care, which Romney said he hadn’t really considered before.

“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney said. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”

When running for president in 2012, Romney faced questions about the similarities of Obama’s plan to his, both of which required citizens to have health insurance. But the Republican, who vowed to repeal Obamacare, often said he didn’t want the Massachusetts plan replicated at the national level.

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