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Special Report

'Romneycare' a Liability for Mitt?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 12, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, R - MA, FORMER GOVERNOR: A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that it was just a bone-headed idea and I should just admit it, it was a mistake and walk away from it. And I presume a lot of folks would conclude that if I did that it would be good for me politically.

But there is only one problem with that. It wouldn't be honest. I in fact did what I believed was right for the people of my state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Former governor Mitt Romney talking about healthcare, saying he would repeal President Obama's health care law first thing in office, talking about his plan in Massachusetts. He says the plan was a state solution to a state problem. Obamacare is a federal power grab.

How is that playing across the political spectrum? We're back with our all-star panel. A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, Mitt Romney is getting beat up from the left and the right. The left saying Obamacare is Romneycare, and the right saying this isn't good enough. He did not renounce his health care plan in Massachusetts. That's what people were looking for, it's what Charles recommended that he do, admit it was error. He did not. He doubled down and said he wouldn't apologize and that he's essentially still proud of what he did.

This is not a speech intended to change anybody's mind though. It was a way to lay down a marker so that as he moves down the path in the nomination fight he can say I have already addressed this. He wants this issue to go away. And he knows that a five-point plan and calls to repeal Obamacare are not going to assuage his critics.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I commend him on his sincerity and passing the plan in the first place. And I commend him on the plan he now proposed which has very important elements scandously left out of Obamacare, tort reform, being able to purchase health insurance across state lines, correcting the tax inequity between people who get insurance though employers and who get it on their own. All of that is fine. He had a chart in "USA Today" comparing his plan and Obamacare, and his is infinitely superior.

The problem is it's beside the point. Because the attack on him is over Romneycare. And when you do a chart comparing Romney care and Obamacare, there are a lot of similarities. And that is a problem that Romney has had trouble getting around. I'm not sure he's answered it. And as long as it stays, I'm not sure that looking at his new plan is gonna undo the liability.

BAIER: Fred, the "Wall Street Journal," owned by the parent company of this network, had a scathing editorial today in which he said on the question of health care, Mr. Romney is, quote, "compromised and not credible."

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Because the Massachusetts plan has failed. Ya know, the idea was everybody would be in, everybody would be insured and the costs would go down. Well they haven't gone down, they've gone up. And now they are getting into price controls and controlling providers and all these things which Romney may not have intended.

But these have happened there. Look there is a way out if he just said something like this -- that look, I put this plan into place, even some conservatives were for it at the time. Some actually favored an individual mandate but we know now it has failed. We had a test in a laboratory, that was Massachusetts. I did what I thought was right, but we know it has failed, and that's why I am now proposing something completely different.

Romneycare was a government run with government mandates, a very statist approach, and now he's proposing a free market approach. Unless he says -- he can't defend both of them. His new approach and the Massachusetts approach -- because are completely different. Somehow he has to explain how we got from Romneycare, which he is still defending, to what he is proposing now.

BAIER: And A.B., the White House mentioned a 1994 statement in which he seemed to advocate a national mandate. And he is saying it's a state solution to a state problem. They are pointing back to statements he's made on a national level that it should be a national mandate for health insurance.

STODDARD: Oh I think he was quoted actually as late as 2007, I believe, maybe on "Meet the Press" he said something similar about how it should be tried on a national level, the mandate approach.

Look, as we know, there were conservatives for the mandate back when, but not anymore. And the problem is, as Charles says, no matter how much he tries to spin a new plan or a repeal, the grassroots aren't buying it, and he can't get by them to win the nomination.

BAIER: So you think it's devastating?

STODDARD: I mean his plan is not to make anyone happy. Mitt Romney's strategy for the nomination is to be the last man standing. He thinks it's gonna be bloody, he think he'll be unpopular, he thinks he'll be the one with the most delegates by default at the end. That's his plan. It's not to win anyone over, it's just to win.

BAIER: Okay, here it is, May 12, is he the nominee?

KRAUTHAMMER: 50/50

BAIER: That's all you're giving me?

STODDARD: I don't think he is the nominee.

BARNES: Neither do I.

BAIER: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for another lesson in television reporting -- when the stop talking.

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