For team Romney, it was clear from the start that a mandate would be critical.
Analyzing a proposal offered by the Senate leader, Romney’s health secretary Tim Murphy wrote in a Feb. 2006 email to the governor and key aides: “It is unclear that the plan adopts an individual mandate. We must have an individual mandate for any plan to work.”
This story isn't going to change anything in the general election. Romney is still going to claim—against his own personal beliefs, I think—that a mandate was the right solution for Massachusetts but is not the right solution for every state. But it does serve as a reminder that six years ago an individual mandate was a conservative solution to the health care problem. It wasn't until the mandate was embraced by President Obama that it became a dangerous liberal concept. It's getting hard to remember where the goalposts are when the field keeps changing this quickly.