The Obama team’s ‘veritable death hug’

I get the feeling the White House actually enjoys this.

The Obama administration, on Friday, continued to apply a veritable death hug to likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, praising the health care law he passed as Massachusetts’ governor despite Romney’s insistence that there were major distinctions between his and the president’s approach.

“We have said before that health care reform that then Governor Romney signed into law in Massachusetts is in many ways similar to the legislation that resulted in the Affordable Care Act,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in an off-camera briefing at the White House. “And as to the issue of flexibility, as you know, earlier this year we made quite a big deal out of the fact that the president wanted to move up to 2014 … the starting point at which states can ask for waivers to opt out of the Affordable Care Act as long as they, of course, demonstrate their capacity with their own ideas to achieve the same objectives.”

“We wholly endorse flexibility and we obviously feel that Massachusetts took a smart approach towards health care reform,” the press secretary added. “Its provenance was so mainstream, there are great similarities between Massachusetts’ law, the Affordable Care Act and legislation proposed by then Rhode Island Republican [Senator] John Chaffee in 1993.”

If you’re thinking this is the sort of thing that will be touted by Romney’s Republican rivals — and cause Romney and his staff to collective smack their foreheads — we’re thinking along the same lines.

But also note this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the president’s team deliberately align itself with Romney’s health care policy. In February, Obama himself noted at a governors’ meeting, “I know that many of you have asked for flexibility for your states under this law. In fact, I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he’s proud of what he accomplished on health care by giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. He’s right.”

Around the same time, David Axelrod also praised Romney for his work on health care policy during his tenure in Massachusetts. “We got some good ideas from him,” Axelrod said of the former governor.

To be sure, the president and his team are telling the truth and there are striking similarities between the two policies. But the fact that they keep telling the truth in a way that must frustrate the Romney campaign is probably not coincidental.