Speaking in Iowa today, Mitt Romney made a strange statement: he said he didn’t quite know what Medicaid was until he got into government.
The comment came after a question about entitlements. When he got to Medicaid, he said:
Medicaid. You wonder what Medicaid is; those who aren’t into all this government stuff. You know, I have to admit, I didn’t know the differences between all these things until I got into government. Then I got into it and I understood that Medicaid is the health care program for the poor, by and large.
It came as part of a discussion about giving states more control of their own spending:
[Medicaid is] a program that grows very fast and the federal government picks up half the bill and the state picks up the other half. I’d have the federal government take its money and give it back to Iowa and say “Iowa, you craft your own program in the way you think best to take care of your own poor.” Because we’re not going to have the federal government tell you how to take care of your own people. Because, by the way, there are differences between being poor in Mississippi or Michigan or Massachusetts or Montana or Iowa or Ohio.
It seems likely that this was an attempt to come across as a down-to-earth person who’s not a “career politician” and too wrapped up in - or beholden to - “all this government stuff.”
It seems hard to believe that Mitt Romney, with two degrees from Harvard and a father who ran for president three years after Medicaid’s passage, didn’t fully understand what Medicaid was until he became governor of Massachusetts in 2002 — at the age of 55.
Video via Raw Story (starts around 2:30)
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.