Saturday, September 20th, 2014
Mostly True
Santorum
"Romney adviser admits Romneycare was blueprint for Obamacare."

Rick Santorum on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 in a television ad

In "Rombo" ad, Rick Santorum says Mitt Romney adviser equated Massachusetts health care law with Obama's

Rick Santorum hit paydirt with this ad playfully mocking Mitt Romney's attacks against him. We check one of the ad's claims.

In the run-up to the Michigan primary, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum released a television ad titled "Rombo" that portrayed rival Mitt Romney as a gun-toting mudslinger. In the ad, a Romney look-alike, clad in a pitch-perfect white dress shirt and a tie, aims a paintball gun at cardboard cutouts of Santorum, hoping to cover them with mud.

The visuals made the ad an instant classic, but the ad’s substance has received less attention in the media. We thought we’d look at one of the ad’s claims.

One of the on-screen visuals said, "Romney adviser admits Romneycare was blueprint for Obamacare." Is that correct?

First, we should note that we’ve looked at previous claims that Romney’s health care law and Obama’s were similar and have found them to be generally accurate.

To check the claim in the ad, we first turmed to the cited source for the claim, a transcript from rushlimbaugh.com. During his Oct. 13, 2011, show, the conservative talker discussed an appearance the previous night by Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.

We located the transcript for that episode of O’Donnell’s show. Here are some excerpts:

O’Donnell: One of Gov. Romney's health care reform consultants was MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. He attended five of the 12 meetings at the Obama White House in 2009, including the meeting with the president. Joining me now, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jonathan Gruber. Thanks for joining me tonight, professor.

Gruber: You bet, Lawrence. Good to be here.
   
O’Donnell: All right. Come on, come clean. You were in the room with President Obama discussing health care reform. And you did, in fact, work with the Romney administration in Massachusetts. Come on, professor, you have to tell us the truth.

Gruber: The truth is that the Affordable Care Act is essentially based on what we accomplished in Massachusetts. It's the same basic structure applied nationally. John McDonough (the executive director of Health Care For All, a Massachusetts consumer health advocacy organization and) one of the other advisers who worked in both Massachusetts and advised the White House, said it's the Massachusetts bill with three more zeros. That's basically a good description of what the federal bill did.

O’Donnell: It is kind of laughable that we've actually reach the point where we have the great investigative reporter Michael Isikoff actually going in there to get these kind of diary facts in the White House to sort of prove what we all know. I want you to listen to what Mitt Romney had to say when he was signing the bill in Massachusetts.

(In video clip) Mitt Romney: I want to thank the many, many people in this room who were critical to crafting and coaxing the bold health care initiative that I'm about to sign. Jonathan Gruber at MIT devoted hours and hours to an essential econometric model.

O’Donnell: That's for the econometric model, professor. He didn't mention you last night in his answer, when he was asked about, you know, who helped him and who helped President Obama?

Gruber: I'm hurt, Lawrence. I think I'll live.

So, Romney’s hat-tip in the signing ceremony confirms that Gruber helped put together portions of the Massachusetts health care bill. And we think it’s fair to use the term "blueprint" to describe Gruber’s comment that "the truth is that the Affordable Care Act is essentially based on what we accomplished in Massachusetts. It's the same basic structure applied nationally."

The ad’s only failing is not describing Gruber as a "former adviser." Gruber is not advising Romney’s presidential run, but one could easily think so when reading the screen text.

We checked with Gruber to see what he thought.

"Yes, that is pretty much right, if you add that I’m a former Romney adviser," he said. He added a bit of praise for the ad-maker.

"It’s funny, at the start of the ad, I thought the guy didn't look like Romney -- too muscular -- but from the angles at the end of the ad, he did look a lot like him."

Our ruling

According to the ad, a "Romney adviser admits Romneycare was blueprint for Obamacare." Stick a "former" in front of "Romney adviser" and it would have been correct. As it is, we’ll downgrade it slightly to Mostly True.