Romney's Dilemma: Define or Be Defined

Will former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney side with a Massachusetts pro-life group or a liberal organization devoted to championing ObamaCare?

At first glance, the decision would seem to be a no-brainer. But nothing in Romney’s world seems to be in black and white.

Romney will be presented with a dilemma on Wednesday when Massachusetts Citizens for Life will launch a statewide ballot petition to strike the individual mandate provision from Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health reforms.

In Romney’s defense, Protect Your Care, a progressive group that champions ObamaCare, will “intervene” to save Romney’s signature legislative achievement. According to a statement the group released:

Romney’s passing of the individual responsibility provision in MA was key to laying the foundation to including it in the passage of the Affordable Care Act.  Just like we are in Ohio we will be closely monitoring this initiative process and deciding if it’s necessary for us to intervene.  We do fear that Romney may not speak up strongly enough to defend his law but if that is the case it will make it more likely we will get involved to do it for him

According to Protect Your Care’s website, the group will attempt to “create the political and media space for elected officials, industry leaders and community advocates to champion the Affordable Care Act and hold accountable those who seek to take those benefits away by repealing or defunding the law.”

Romney’s choice would seem to be clear — side with the conservative pro-life group.

But his refusal to apologize for RomneyCare, which many have said was a mistake, will no doubt make it nearly impossible for him to side with an organization devoted to eliminating his signature iniative.

Influential pro-life voice Steven Ertelt first wrote in LifeNews that “a statewide pro-life group in Massachusetts is starting an effort tomorrow designed to target the repeal of the individual mandate in Romneycare,” which “many political observers say will be his biggest obstacle to wining the GOP nomination to face pro-abortion President Barack Obama.”

Massachusetts Citizens for Life told LifeNews that it is “holding a press conference” on Wednesday to announce that it is “dropping off papers with the Massachusetts Attorney General for an Initiative Petition to repeal the individual mandate in Romneycare.”

In addition, MCFL president Anne Fox told LifeNews that the petition will show that “Massachusetts, the prototype for Obamacare, is not happy with Romneycare” and that the it will also “make health care an issue in the 2012 elections.” Here is more information about the petition from LifeNews:

The petition MCLF will file reads, “Pursuant to the provisions of Article forty-eight of the Amendments of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the undersigned qualified voters of the Commonwealth, being ten in number at least, petition for an initiative law to repeal the individual mandate, which requires residents of Massachusetts to obtain health care coverage or be subjected to a penalty or sanction for failure to do so.”

“Section 1. Notwithstanding any provisions of any general or specific law to the contrary, M.G.L. 111M, “Individual Health Coverage,” will be stricken in its entirety, so that no individual shall be required to purchase health insurance or be subjected to any penalty or sanction for declining to do so,” it says. “Section 2. Notwithstanding any general or specific law to the contrary, Chapter 58, 830 CRM  111M.2.1 will be stricken in its entirety. Section 3. The effective date of this act is January 1, 2013.”

Romney’s choice would seem to be clear — side with the conservative pro-life group.

But his refusal to apologize for RomneyCare, which many have said was a mistake, will no doubt make it nearly impossible for him to side with an organization devoted to eliminating his signature initiative.

In this instance, it may make sense for Romney to not take a stand for or against either organization. But that will further add to the meme that Romney stands for nothing except for political convenience.

Yesterday, Ben Smith, of POLITICO, wrote a piece about Romney’s absence from the campaign trail and his refusal to weigh in on the issues of the day. The piece was cleverly titled, “The Mittness Protection Program.”

Indeed, Romney’s campaign to date has resembled North Carolina’s four corners offense in the sense that Romney is hoping his fundraising and organizational strength will help him run out the clock on his opponents. As Smith wrote:

Romney has been missing from the fields of Iowa, swamps of South Carolina, beaches of Florida, and even the mountains near his summer home in New Hampshire – everywhere you’d expect a presidential candidate to go.

Other campaigns have attacked Romney’s absence from the campaign trail and the debates of the day, but Jon Huntsman‘s campaign has been the fiercest.

In a blog post titled “Romney’s Leadership Deferred,” which appeared on the H-Blog section of Huntsman’s website on Tuesday, Huntsman campaign spokesman James Richardson wrote, “but it appears our skepticism of Romney’s politics of convenience is shared by even prominent former endorsers and advisers of the Massachusetts governor.”

Richardson then cited criticisms of Romney’s lack of participation in the debt ceiling debate by Rich Lowry, whose publication endorsed Romney in 2008, and Mike Murphy, who was on board Romney’s team in 2008.

Romney’s team told The Washington Post that they will begin a new phase in their campaign next week. But the more wishy-washy Romney is on a host of issues going forward, the more he risks being defined by his opponents as a nominal frontrunner who stands for nothing, and the harder it will be to define himself and his candidacy in his own terms.