Mitt Romney campaigns in Toledo, Ohio. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
TOLEDO, Ohio — Mitt Romney, while campaigning in Ohio on Wednesday, highlighted the healthcare law that he passed while governor of Massachusetts as proof of his empathy for people.
“I think throughout this campaign as well, we talked about my record in Massachusetts, don't forget — I got everybody in my state insured,” Romney told NBC News in an interview before he headlined a rally here. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don't think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”
The healthcare law is controversial among conservatives because it included a mandate that nearly every state resident purchase the insurance or be fined; it served as the model of the federal healthcare law that is Obama’s signature act as president, and that is an anathema to many Republicans.
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Romney has consistently opposed the federal law, saying that its mandate was unconstitutional, while he stood by his law as appropriate because it was a state action. But he rarely discusses it on the campaign trail.
Romney has been repeatedly emphasizing his compassion for the poor and middle class in recent days, a push back against a sentiment among some voters that the multimillionaire does not understand their concerns. That belief was driven by the release of a secretly recorded video last week that showed him making controversial remarks about President Obama’s supporters as dependent on government for their needs. At rallies, he has spoken about his connection with voters and the pain he feels for those struggling.
Romney's remarks on his healthcare law prompted a retort from the Obama camp.
“Mitt Romney is working overtime to rehabilitate his image after being caught writing off half of all Americans to a room of high-dollar donors. But his warm and fuzzy rhetoric doesn’t match up with his policies, principles or priorities," Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, said in a statement. "In fact, while Mitt Romney held up the Massachusetts healthcare law as evidence of his empathy for people, minutes later he promised to repeal Obamacare, which is modeled after his own law."
Romney, at a morning rally in Westerville, Ohio, on Wednesday, said his “heart aches” from the struggles of people he’s met on the campaign trail.
“There are so many people in our country that are hurting right now. I want to help them. I know what it takes to get an economy going again and creating jobs. I know that a lot of folks that have jobs that wonder how they can make ends meet till the end of the month, how they can put food on the table for their family,” he said.
In Toledo in the evening, he said that the government must help the disabled and the poor, and that everyone faces challenges in their lives.
“I want to tell you where my passion and conviction of the future of this country comes from," Romney said. "It’s because I get the chance to see the American people. And I have over my lifetime seen people in this country — by the way, most of whom are struggling with one kind of challenge or another. You look around, you see everybody, they look happy and you think everybody’s doing just fine and you’re the only one with problems.
"But the truth is most people that you see have some real challenges in their life of one kind or another. I understand that. And I’ve seen that inside the heart of the American people, despite our challenges, is the conviction that this nation is the greatest nation in the history of the earth.”