Mitt Romney isn't yet an officially declared candidate for president, but it appears he's ready to take on what could be a key liability in his eventual bid for the GOP nomination.
His exploratory committee announced this morning Romney will deliver a major health care speech this Thursday in Michigan.
The remarks are expected to focus largely on Romney's ideas for how to repeal President Obama's health care proposal. But Romney will also apparently address the health care plan he passed as governor of Massachusetts, which has been a frequent target of his potential 2012 GOP rivals.
In recent months, Romney has rarely mentioned health care, unless asked directly about it. In February, a Romney spokesman said the ex-governor is "proud" of the plan he passed in Massachusetts, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Obama's health care law.
Obama and other White House aides have gone out of their way to praise Romney's plan--knowing that doing so is unlikely to play well with GOP voters. But last month, Romney offered a new defense on that front, saying Obama should have consulted with him on the issue.
"Why didn't you call me?" Romney said. "Why didn't you ask what was wrong? Why didn't you ask if this was an experiment, what worked and what didn't?"
Some of Romney's top 2008 supporters have distanced themselves from the former governor over health care. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint first backed up Romney on the issue--but then backtracked. Meanwhile, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another key Romney supporter four years ago, has hinted she's a free agent in the 2012 primary and has called on Romney to explain his health care stance.
Mike Huckabee, who is considering his own 2012 bid, has said Romney won't make it in the GOP primary unless he apologizes for his health care bill. But, as The Ticket has previously noted, the larger issue for Romney isn't purely his stance on health care, it's the idea, which dates back to the 2008 campaign, that he's willing to say anything to win.
Those competing dramas put Romney in a tricky position heading into 2012, as even if he attempts to distance himself from his Massachusetts plan, his opponents will attack him for inconsistency. Whatever Romney says Thursday could potentially be a turning point for his eventual campaign.
(Photo of Romney: Alex Brandon/AP)