Romney health plan too much to stomach?

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney has said his health plan will empower states to craft their own healthcare solutions

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Mitt Romney appears to have hit the rock with a splatter. That seems to be the consensus of the coverage of a vitally important speech anyhow.

Mr Romney is the front runner to become the Republican presidential candidate even though he hasn't officially declared. But he has two huge problems.

Problem number one: most Republicans loathe what they call "Obamacare", the president's plan for healthcare reform, which makes nearly all Americans take out health insurance.

And when Mr Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he introduced something pretty similar for those who lived in the state.

Whether it has worked should perhaps be the starting point of any debate. But that's not the political reality.

The majority of Republican party members can't stomach Mr Romney's plan, but he needs their votes to win the nomination.

Unapologetic defiance

He could just say he was wrong, which brings us to problem number two.

In the 2008 election, the main charge against him was that he flipped-flopped, and as a result he didn't fly. So an apology would reinforce the image of him as a man always changing his mind.

Mitt Romney shaking hands at the University of Michigan
Mr Romney outlined his speech on Thursday at the University of Michigan

Instead, he's been resolute, awkwardly presenting a detailed PowerPoint presentation on what he would do about healthcare as president.

"I recognise that a lot pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that this was a boneheaded idea and I should just admit it - it was a mistake, and walk away," Mr Romney said, speaking at the University of Michigan.

He added: "I presume that a lot of folks think that if I did that, it would be good for me politically. There's only one problem with that: it wouldn't be honest."

There's more than one problem with this unapologetic defiance towards the right.

His plan may well appeal to independents, who count in the final playoff.

'Dense'

After all, not everyone thinks President Barack Obama's plan is terrible, and Mr Romney is making it clear his nationwide solution is different.

But he has to explain to conservatives how he can be so right and the president so wrong, when their programmes look so similar.

Mr Romney said: "Our plan was a state solution to a state problem. And his is a power grab by the federal government to put in place a one-size-fits plan across the nation."

So he bases his defence on the idea that different states should have different policies and the central government should not impose its will on them.

It is a central tenet of American Conservatism, beloved of the Tea Party in particular.

But it doesn't quite wash. After all they wouldn't go for banning guns or allowing free abortions just because it was done on a state level.

The Washington Post's conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin is "dumb struck" that Mr Romney can be so "dense".

The moderate Republican FrumForum says the arguments "will not serve him well".

The conservative National Review's blogger calls it terrible and illogical.

These comments follow a mauling in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal.

I can't see anything to comment on in the speech itself, but I doubt that it will make the party change its mind.

The Wall Street Journal declares in an editorial that Mr Romney would be better suited as President Obama's running mate than a Republican candidate, arguing that he has a "troubling failure of political understanding and principle", which amounts to a "fatal flaw". Ouch!

Has Mitt just hit a brick wall, or will he pick himself up, dust himself down and go on to win the nomination ?