The blogosphere works best when we all talk to each other, openly, civilly, and rationally, to build our understanding of an issue. This weekend's example: John Tsitrian and I have a blog conversation that helps us understand that, on the Affordable Care Act, Marion Michael Rounds is South Dakota's Willard Mitt Romney.

On Friday, Tsitrian deemed our frontrunning, big-money GOP U.S. Senate candidate the winner of the Republican candidates' debate held on SDPB Thursday night. Tsitrian felt none of the underdogs said anything really new to distinguish themselves and damage the Rounds campaign. Tsitrian questioned charge leveled on Rounds by Rep. Stace Nelson:

To the charge that Rounds was complicit in developing Obamacare because he had worked on a panel studying healthcare reform with then Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, Rounds claimed that he had "never worked with Daschle" on Obamacare. I'm not sure this can be verified, but that's probably irrelevant as there was no follow-up in the debate, which effectively neutralized the the charge [John Tsitrian, "Re: Last Night's GOP Senate Debate. It Was An Exercise In Redundancy, Rounds Wins By Default," The Constant Commoner, 2014.05.16].

Nelson launched this attack at 57:40 in the debate, with the Daschle collaboration claim at 58:10. Rounds categorically denied collaboration with Daschle on ObamaCare at 59:05. Nelson rebutted this claim at 1:02:55, urging viewers to Google Rapid City Journal, Mike Rounds, Tom Daschle, task force for documentation. Within two minutes, KELO-AM's Greg Belfrage Tweeted the result of said search, Kevin Woster's February 11, 2011, Rapid City Journal article that said what Nelson said: Rounds worked with Daschle on a task force whose primary purpose, in Daschle's words, was "to explore how states can move forward in providing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act."

I blogged this documentation and the press release Nelson wrapped around it yesterday morning. Tsitrian read that post. Yesterday afternoon, he reassessed Nelson's attack, saying Rounds's collaboration with Daschle to implement the Affordable Care Act is a "major" point "considering that the Rounds campaign says the candidate 'couldn't sleep' over the Affordable Care Act":

Now that Rounds has been exposed as being complicit in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act that he publicly deplores--to the point that in one of his videos he trots out his own dad as an audio-visual aid in order to emotionally empower his antagonism toward ACA--I trust that he has made the appropriate explanations and apologies to his family. (And please, Mr. Rounds, don't tell me to leave your family out of this. You're the one that brought them in.) Next step would be to explain to voters that he was for Obamacare before he was against it, then hope that his standing in the campaign might merit a bit of the respect that it just lost [John Tsitrian, "Will Mike Rounds Ever Get It Right When It Comes To The Affordable Care Act? You Can Run From Obamacare, Mr. Rounds, But You Can't Hide," The Constant Commoner, 2014.05.17].

Tsitrian says Mike Rounds lied Thursday night. He says the only honorable way out for Rounds is to admit he lied and admit he was for the ACA before he was against it.

Rounds now sounds like Mitt Romney, who was for the ACA's health insurance mandate before he needed to be against it to run for President against Barack Obama. RomneyCare is ObamaCare, a fact that hobbled Romney's credibility as a conservative. Jim DeMint, one of the national conservatives who said last year he was on the hunt for an alternative to Rounds, said that Romney's inability to consistently attack the ACA hurt Republicans in 2012. The RomneyCare–ObamaCare connection still dogs Romney's pal Scott Brown, who voted for RomneyCare in the Massachusetts legislature but now is campaigning against ObamaCare in his run for New Hampshire's Senate seat.

Nelson seems to grasp the Mike Rounds–Mitt Romney analogy. He's hammered on Rounds's support for the ACA from the beginning of his campaign. Thursday night he mentioned Rounds's personal airplane, a clear nod toward the "rich and out of touch" characterization that Romney admits hurt his campaign.

Of course, for Nelson to capitalize on the Rounds–Romney analogy, he's got to get that message out to every Republican primary voter. He has two weeks to do so. If he can afford another TV ad, he needs to hammer that point home. The bare storyboard:

  1. Unflattering photo of Mitt: "Remember this guy? He was for ObamaCare before he was against it. He lost in 2012."
  2. Photo of Rounds with Obama: "Now this guy says he's losing sleep over ObamaCare, even though he helped Barack Obama and Tom Daschle implement it."
  3. Montage of studly images of Stace Nelson: "Don't let another fake conservative hand victory to Democrats. Vote for a real conservative who's opposed ObamaCare from Day 1. Vote for Stace Nelson."

Short of TV ads, Nelson needs to win on the ground game. His people need to knock on 500 Republican doors an hour, 12 hours a day, every day from now until June 3, telling people exactly this message: Rounds was for ObamaCare before he was against it. Rounds is Romney, and Romney means ruin. If moderate Republican John Tsitrian can see the impact of that message, so can half the folks Team Nelson would contact. Out of 90,000 voters contacted, that Romney message alone could win 45,000 votes. And 45,000 votes could be a majority in the GOP primary vote.