Politics

Thune soft-pedals ‘RomneyCare’ ultimatum

J. Arthur Bloom Deputy Editor

Answering questions at a Heritage Foundation event Thursday in Washington, D.C., South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune seems to distance himself from his earlier statement that presidential candidate Mitt Romney should “disown” or “disavow” the mandated health care plan he implemented as governor of Massachusetts.

During an interview Wednesday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, Sen. Thune had strong words for Romney and RomneyCare.

“Well, you know, I think it’d be great, I suppose, if he would come out — I mean I think there are a lot of people who over the years have, since this thing passed in Massachusetts, have looked at it and said, ‘Gosh, I wish he would come out and then disown it or disavow it.’ … frankly, I would like to see that, but then I am not advising the campaign.”

But on Thursday, Thune resisted the temptation to double down. Instead, he walked back his advice.

The Daily Caller asked him during the lunchtime event: “Why does former governor Romney need to disown RomneyCare, and do you think he has a chance of winning the nomination or the presidency if he doesn’t?”

“Far be it from me to suggest how best he handle it,” Thune responded.

“But it’s an issue obviously, a bit of a difficult one for him. He’ll respond to it the way he thinks is best for him. My guess is it’s an issue that will probably continue to be discussed throughout the course of the rest of the campaign.” (RELATED: Dueling press releases, bewildering polls as GOP hopefuls gear up for Orlando debate)

The Massachusetts healthcare law has become a political liability for Romney, undermining his support among fiscal conservatives and making him the subject of frequent needling from other candidates during public debates.

“I think he’s got a really good chance at winning the nomination,” Thune added, “and a good chance at winning the presidency if he wins the nomination. But he’s got to get through a primary process and he’s got a lot of pretty good competition right now.”