GREENVILLE, SC -- Sen. Jim DeMint endorsed Mitt Romney in the last GOP primary, back when he was just a freshman senator and his endorsement didn't mean so much. Now he's recognized as one of the political icons of the Tea Party movement, and Romney is running for president again. In the spin room after last night's debate, I asked DeMint whether he'd had his qualms about a health care mandate in 2007, when he endorsed Romney, and the mandate was law in Massachusetts.
"I got involved with him before that," DeMint explained, "and the concept that was presented to me was the idea of moving people from government plans to private plans. That's what the goal was. That's how my conversations went, and that's how it was presented. But the way it ended up…" he paused to think about about this. "I cannot accept all the mandates, all the government exchanges. And it hasn't worked. I think the goal of figuring out how you can move people from government policies to private insurance policies is a good goal. That's one of the things that attracted me to what he was trying to do. Frankly, with the Democratic legislature in control there, I just think the way it ended up, we wouldn't want it in our state or our country."
So did he think the original plan was workable but Democrats, who took control of the whole state government in 2007, wrecked it?
"I'll let [Romney] describe his old plan," said DeMint, "but the way it ended up was not acceptable. I think the more we learn about what Obamacare did with the individual mandates, we realize there are much better ways to do that. The goverment-centric approach is not one I support."
Romney's position on his reform is that different states can try different things but the plan shouldn't be imposed federally.