On the second anniversary of President Barack Obama's signing of the law to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, Mitt Romney set out to achieve two goals: renew his vow to repeal it and diminish assertions that the Massachusetts law he backed was a model for it.
Standing amid signs reading "Repeal and replace Obamacare," the front-runner for the GOP nomination said Friday that the federal law has increased government spending, raised taxes and violated religious freedom.
"This presidency has been a failure and the centerpiece of that failure is this piece of legislation," Romney told voters in Metairie, La., as he campaigned before today's primary.
The issue worked for Republicans in 2010, when opposition to the law by anti-tax Tea Party activists helped give the party control of the House of Representatives and more seats in the Senate.
The four remaining Republican presidential candidates all have promised to make repealing the law they call "Obamacare" a central focus of the 2012 campaign.
Yet as Romney attacked the law, he also sought to defuse the criticism he has taken for the Massachusetts measure and its link to the federal one. In an article published in USA Today, he reiterated his opposition to a "one-size-fits-all healthcare plan" and outlined his support for providing financial assistance to states so they can implement their own proposals.
"When I was governor of Massachusetts, we instituted a plan that got our citizens insured without raising taxes and without a government takeover. Other states will choose to go in different directions," Romney wrote.
"It is the genius of federalism that it encourages experimentation, with each state pursuing what works best for them," he wrote. "Obamacare's disregard for this core aspect of U.S. tradition is one of its most egregious failings."
Public opinion has remained divided on the law. Polls show stronger opposition among Republicans and independents than support from Democrats.