CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mitt Romney may be persona non grata at the Democratic National Convention, but in one corner of Charlotte this week, Democratic delegates heaped praise on him.
At the top of one of Charlotte's skyscrapers, the delegates held a meeting Tuesday titled "Romneycare works." Jim Roosevelt, a Democratic delegate from Massachusetts who is also the CEO of Tufts Health Plan, said organizers picked the title somewhat "facetiously." But Gov. Romney's Massachusetts healthcare reform of 2006 was "important," he said, pointing out that Romney's plan formed a model for President Obama's healthcare reform law. "It wouldn't have happened without him."
At the Republican National Convention, Roosevelt noted, "There was never a mention of Gov. Romney's greatest achievement, which was the healthcare legislation in Massachusetts." He proceeded to list several of Romney's feats in passing the healthcare plan and implementing it.
"Let's not get carried away," said Phil Johnston, another Democratic delegate from Massachusetts and was Massachusetts' secretary of human services under Gov. Michael Dukakis, who also attended Tuesday's meeting.
"We just happened to hit Mitt Romney in his faux progressive stage," Johnston continued. "That lasted about a minute and a half, but it was just at the right time."
Romney's state healthcare reform has become an albatross for the GOP nominee as challenging Obama's healthcare reform has become a central part of his campaign. Romney did not mention it at the Republican convention.
The current governor of Massachusetts, Democrat Deval Patrick, piled on.
"Gov. Romney, to his great credit, and I say that sincerely, working with a Democratic legislature … came together to invent healthcare reform in Massachusetts," he said. "It's done a lot of good."
Patrick described Romney's official governor's portrait, which includes his wife, Ann, and what Patrick said was the healthcare bill on his desk.
"If the healthcare bill was polling better nationally, he would wrap his arms right around it," he said.
Despite the plaudits, Romney's healthcare reform for Massachusetts has had dubious results. Since health insurance coverage is now a mandate there, 98 percent of residents are officially covered. But insurance premiums and healthcare costs are among the highest in the country.
"I didn't get the job done in Massachusetts and getting the healthcare costs down in this country is something I think we've got to do at the national level," Romney admitted in a primary debate last October.
The Democratic convention's keynote speaker Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, also skewered Romney on Tuesday.
"When it comes to expanding access to affordable healthcare, Mitt Romney said …" he waited for the crowd to fill in the blank. "NO!" The crowd shouted back. And in a perfect comedic pause, Mayor Castro said, "Actually … Mitt Romney said, 'Yes.' And now he says, 'No.'"