(Elise Amendola/AP Photo )
Reporting from Ann Arbor, Mich. — Mitt Romney's aides have cautioned reporters not to expect any heart-stopping news when the front-runner for the GOP nomination delivers his first major speech of the 2012 campaign.
The topic: healthcare, one that has bedeviled the former Massachusetts governor since his first presidential run four years ago.
Romney's remarks, at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, are an attempt to get beyond criticism of "Romneycare," the healthcare plan he signed into law in 2006. That plan is considered the prototype for President Obama's healthcare overhaul, which is despised by Republicans.
What would qualify as real news would be an unadulterated apology, a mea culpa, for his role in providing a model for what critics label "Obamacare." But Romney aides have said that won't happen, and nonaligned strategists have said it's probably too late for that, anyway.
Instead, Romney will try to pivot to the future, talking about his vision for national healthcare, a sidestep away from his "Massachusetts miracle" and a set of ideas which he's actually been talking up for the last four years, when fewer people were paying attention.
In a USA Today op-ed published Thursday, Romney said he will offer reforms that "return power to the states, improve access by slowing health care cost increases, and make health insurance portable and flexible for today's economy."
Romney's decision to deliver a healthcare address elicited a fresh wave of attacks from the left and right, both about his record on the issue and the candidate himself.
In a blistering editorial, the conservative Wall Street Journal suggested that Joe Biden step down in the 2012 campaign so Romney can run as Obama's running mate.
"The debate over Obamacare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election. On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible," the paper said.
The new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee told ABC on Thursday that Romney is trying to "repeal and erase" his own record.
"Voters want a person of conviction," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
Michael A. Memoli contributed from Washington