Mitt Romney was perfectly set up to spike a ball of righteous outrage at Democrats, but the campaign screwed it up in conservatives' eyes. The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA released an ad that presents this chain of events: Bain Capital takes over GST Steel, GST fires man, man loses health insurance, man's wife gets cancer and is diagnosed too late because she lacks insurance, man's wife dies. National Review's Victor Davis Hanson said Obama's allies had made Romney out to be "a veritable killer who in piratical fashion destroyed a cancer victim's chance of getting medical attention." Rush Limbaugh called it the "'Romney murdered my wife' ad." The ad has its logic problems (in the five years between when Bain took over GST, Soptic's wife got and lost health care through her own employer), but in political terms, this looked like an easy way to catch the Obama crowd overstating their claims that Romney did horrible things while he was chairman of Bain.
So, what did the Romney campaign do? Use Romneycare as an alibi. On Fox News, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul called the ad "despicable," but then, oddly, suggested that if the man had lived in Massachusetts, maybe his wife would have made it. "To that point, if people had been in Massachusetts, under Governor Romney’s health care plan, they would have had health care," Saul said. RedState's Erick Erickson exploded.
"Then the Romney campaign decided to sabotage itself with a mind numbingly bit of spin that may mark the day the Romney campaign died," Erickson writes. He continues:
Conservatives have put aside their distrust of Romney on this issue in the name of beating Barack Obama. They thought he and his campaign team had gotten the message and the hints. Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again.
Limbaugh is appalled, telling radio listeners today:
"This isn’t about health insurance! They’re out there saying that your guy killed this woman! And your answer is, 'Well she’d have had health insurance if she lived in Massachusetts.'"
This story feels like parody in several ways. First, the campaign is saying that you can't tie Romney to the woman's cancer. But, if you do accept the Romney → Bain → layoff → uninsured → cancer link, then Romney would have saved her with his health reform law. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein agrees Romneycare might have saved her. And conservatives are not flipping out over a new revelation of heresy from Romney, but over his campaign's inability to communicate enough shame over his biggest achievement as governor.