WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Wednesday that potential White House rival Mitt Romney should offer an apology for the health care overhaul he oversaw as Massachusetts governor.
"I think it's not a killer for him. But he has to say either 'I love it,' 'I hate it,' or, 'Hey I tried it, it didn't work and that's why I would say to you, let's not do it nationally,'" Huckabee said.
"He's got to figure out how he wants to deal with it. It's the 800-pound elephant in the room for him," said Huckabee, who is on tour to promote his latest book, "A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don't)."
Romney's health plan in Massachusetts has many similarities to the national overhaul that President Barack Obama championed, including requiring coverage and fines for those who do not have insurance. Conservatives who are likely to choose the Republicans' presidential nominee loathe Obama's plan and equate it to socialism, while Romney has said that his plan worked for Massachusetts but should not be applied from coast to coast.
In the paperback edition of his book "No Apology: Believe in America," Romney calls the Democrats' plan an unconstitutional power grab that took a one-size-fits-all approach that cannot work. He blames the Massachusetts legislature for altering his plan and the current Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, for poorly implementing it
During his 2008 campaign, Romney said he would have structured the plan differently but said the Massachusetts plan worked because everyone had health coverage.
Huckabee said the only explanation Romney should consider is a complete reversal.
"The position he should take is to say: 'Look, the reason Obamacare won't work is because we've tried it at the state level and we know it won't work,'" Huckabee said, offering an unsolicited script to his fellow former governor.
"'We gave it our best shot and I'm proud we tried it because - in a world where we all agreed something needed to be done - we thought this might be a way to fix the crisis we had in health care. Our experiment did not turn out as we had hoped. It cost more, waiting times were higher, quality of care went down, people were greatly dissatisfied and it ended up having almost the polar opposite effect of what was intended.'"
Huckabee, who is mulling a second White House run, is on a book tour that takes him through Washington and then Iowa and South Carolina, early nominating states. He said he has not yet made a choice whether to run again for president and said it will be months before he reaches a decision.
Romney, too, is weighing a second presidential bid. But questions about his health care overhaul dog him and his potential rivals have not shied from pointing out the similarities to Obama's efforts. Romney is not expected to make a decision to enter the race until after March.