Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a far-right rising star who'll be vetted for the Republicans' vice presidential nomination, has a history of saying things that aren't especially helpful to Mitt Romney.
In March, for example, a day after endorsing the former Massachusetts governor, the Florida senator said, "There are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish had run for president, but they didn't." Ouch.
Now it's falling on Rubio to defend Romney's health care reform law, which happens to be nearly identical to President Obama's health care reform law. Specifically, Rubio was tasked with explaining why Obama's tax penalty for failing to have insurance is outrageous, but Romney's identical tax policy for failing to have insurance is perfectly acceptable.
The immediate response to the Democrats' tax rebuttal from Republicans was less than impressive.
Romney "supported it on the state level. Which means if you didn't like it in Massachusetts, you could move to another state," Rubio said on Bloomberg Television. "What are people supposed to do? Leave the United States now because of Barack Obama's brilliant idea to stick the IRS on millions of people? More importantly, the state of Massachusetts doesn't have the IRS."
First, Massachusetts has a Department of Revenue, which is the state version of the IRS. Second, I realize public policy isn't Marco Rubio's strong point, but "millions of people" won't have to pay the tax penalty under the Affordable Care Act.
But I'm especially impressed with the idea that Romney's former constituents "could move to another state" if they were outraged by Romney's health care policy. Or as Jon Chait put it, "Right! At least it's possible to flee the socialist hell that Mitt Romney constructed in Massachusetts for another state, but there's no way you can leave the country! Even if you make it past the armed guards, you'll be killed by the electrical fence! No, wait -- I'm thinking of East Germany."
Now, it's true that very, very few Americans would flee the country to avoid the individual mandate. It's also true that very, very few people have left Massachusetts to flee the individual mandate.
But, obviously, Rubio considers the possibility of fleeing for the sweet, sweet freedom to potentially die of an easily treatable condition crucial — crucial enough to define the difference between Romney's pro-freedom health agenda and Obama's tyrannical health agenda. So, I would note that there is still a lengthy list of countries that don't oppress their citizens by subjecting them to universal health care. You're ruling out most of your wealthy countries, but some decent selections remain. Afghanistan has no universal coverage! It also features low taxes, little regulation, and strong family values, if you're into that kind of thing.
If Obamacare's tax penalty is to be considered somehow different than Romneycare's identical-in-every-way tax penalty, they'll need to do better than Rubio's weak tea.