Obama: Universal Health Care
Voter approval for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may be slumping — Gallup and Rasmussen now cite a near-majority of Americans in favor of repealing the measure — yet there is nothing President Obama has achieved in office that is more momentous than his health-care bill. Every president since Teddy Roosevelt has tried to enact far-reaching health care reforms, but it was President Obama who made it reality and who has since staked his legacy and reelection on it. True, Obama had the benefit of a Democrat-controlled Congress, but so did six other Democratic presidents since 1913. The health-care act, modeled on legislation passed in Massachusetts under Mitt Romney and designed to phase in over several years, forbids insurers from refusing coverage for preexisting conditions, does not allow them to drop sick clients, and in turn mandates that every American purchase health care from state-run insurance exchanges, with the government subsidizing those too poor to afford it. With the signing of those 22 pens, Obama effectively brought over 40 million formerly shut-out Americans into the health-care system. A little over a year later, however, some pundits saw Obama's health-care legacy overshadowed by the killing of Osama bin Laden, with the Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan and Newsweek's Howard Kurtz leading the charge. The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus was having none of it: "If a significant part of the Democratic health care plan survives" — now contingent on a Supreme Court decision expected in the spring — "that will 'probably' easily outrank yesterday's bin Laden success. Obama will have done something a series of popular Democratic presidents had failed to accomplish in more than half a century." As Joe Biden famously put it in a whispered aside to Obama (though not quietly enough, since a nearby microphone picked it up), "Mr. President, this is a big fucking deal." Later, then–White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tweeted in response, "And yes, Mr. Vice President, you're right."
Romney: Passing RomneyCare, Though He Sure Seems to Regret It Now
Several options come to mind: Romney's turnaround of the scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City — which he chronicled in a book titled, you guessed it, Turnaround — and his winning the governorship of a state where less than 13 percent of voters are registered Republicans. But pushing a universal health-care solution and being the first state in the union to do so is his standout achievement, as much as he may regret it now. “Romney initially thought that his health-care plan would help him politically," Ryan Lizza wrote in a New Yorker article on RomneyCare earlier this year. "Even in his first Presidential campaign, Romney's health care was an asset. South Carolina Senator James DeMint, the Senate's most conservative Republican, cited it, in January, 2007, as a principal reason for endorsing Romney.” The month after DeMint gave his nod, Romney told a Baltimore crowd: “I'm proud of what we've done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.” But now that Romney is facing a much different GOP electorate, you’re much more likely to hear the Obama White House praising RomneyCare than Romney himself doing so.