Basically, Romney’s approach has been to play dumb, pretending to be baffled by suggestions that his Massachusetts law and Obama’s national program are largely identical and claiming that there are all sorts vital differences between them. He’s just as opposed to and appalled by Obama’s law as they are, he assures Republicans, and is committed to waging war on it as soon as he takes office.
In theory, conservatives should see right through this. The idea that Romney’s law is different from Obama’s in vital, fundamental ways insults the intelligence of anyone who looks closely at them. And even if you accept the federal/state distinction that Romney pushes, the fact remains that he empowered the government of Massachusetts to compel every resident of the state to purchase healthcare or face a fine.
But Romney’s chief rival for the GOP nomination, Rick Santorum, has rather articulately pointed all of this out without gaining much traction. And the candidates who preceded Santorum as Romney’s main foe had even less success, in part because of their own ineptitude, but mainly because conservative hatred of ObamaCare isn’t rooted in the details of the law – it’s rooted in opposition to Obama.