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Romney's health plan, war kept out of RNC spotlight


TAMPA, Fla. – Among Mitt Romney’s many virtues and accomplishments listed Thursday evening, one of his foremost achievements as governor – enacting sweeping health care reform – was noticeably absent.

Also missing from most of this week’s convention was any mention of the winding-down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the engagements that had largely defined the Republican Party for much of the past decade.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney addresses the RNC Thursday in Tampa, Fla.

Two top officials from Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and Workforce Development Secretary Jane Edmonds, offered testimonials on the Republican presidential nominee’s behalf during the final night in Tampa.

Slideshow: Republican National Convention

But neither of them – and, really, none of the other speakers this week – so much as mentioned the landmark health care reform law Romney signed into law during his lone term in office.

The convention included plenty of promises to undo “Obamacare,” the colloquial name for the health care overhaul President Barack Obama pushed through Congress.

Joe Skipper / Reuters

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney takes the stage to formally accept the presidential nomination during the final session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012.

"We will champion small businesses, America’s engine of job growth," Romney said in his acceptance speech. “That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them … it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare."

“The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over,” Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said in his Wednesday night address. “That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.”

But the convention all but glossed over “Romneycare,” the markedly similar Massachusetts law that Obama has often cited as a model for his own health care law.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivers remarks at the 2012 RNC.

Similarly, Romney made no mention of Iraq or Afghanistan, nor did former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a major figure in orchestrating those two wars for the Bush administration.

The only major figure to really make mention of either of the wars was Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

"By committing to withdraw from Afghanistan before peace can be achieved and sustained, the president has discouraged our friends and emboldened our enemies, which is why our commanders did not recommend that decision and why they have said it puts our mission at greater risk," McCain said on Wednesday night.

While speaking at the RNC, Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., explains why he disagrees with the way President Obama has handled foreign policy decisions over the past four years.

Romney has struggled to distinguish himself from Obama in terms of how he would differently handle the two wars, and the economy is undoubtedly the prime issue of the 2012 election.

But the Massachusetts law has always been a more politically thorny issue for Romney, having almost tripped up the nominee during the primary fight, precisely for those similarities to Obama’s reforms.

“He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said in March of Romney because of that Massachusetts law.

Bringing up Romney’s health care law would, at a minimum, risk cognitive dissonance on the issue; at worst, its mention could stir an angry reaction from the conservative delegates gathered here in Florida.

But conventions are carefully scripted affairs that often help decipher what message a party will carry into the fall campaign. The Romney campaign made clear this week that the economy, jobs and Medicare will be at the core of this November’s election. But maybe not health care.