Before this year, Mitt Romney was only too pleased to tout his health care reform law in Massachusetts as the basis for a national plan. He said he thinks his measure is “a good model for the nation“; he argued “we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach“; and he boasted that his plan “allows every citizen in America to get health insurance.”

All of this, however, was before 2011. Yesterday, in an interview with the editorial board of the Washington Examiner, Byron York pressed the former governor on this point.

YORK: But you wouldn’t recommend that any state adopt the plan that was adopted in Massachusetts in its entirety?

ROMNEY: In its entirety, no. But there are principles that I think that are helpful and instructive for the states to learn from and I think that there are other states that have picked up some portion of what we did. [emphasis added]

So we’ve gone from a Republican who believes his own plan is a good model for the nation to a Republican who wouldn’t even recommend other states follow his lead.

But in 2007, when Tim Russert asked about this specific point, Romney said, “I happen to like what we did. I think it’s a good model for other states. Maybe not every state but most.”

He was reminded of this yesterday.

YORK: Governor, on health care, you’ve often said that the health care plan that you’ve created in Massachusetts would be a good model for some other states. You said, “Maybe not every state, but most.”

ROMNEY: I don’t think I said “most,” but —

YORK: On “Meet the Press” in 2007.

ROMNEY: Oh did I? Did I make that exaggeration? [Laughs]

As Greg Sargent responded, “I get that Romney was joking, but still: He just described his own past assertion about the success of his signature accomplishment — one that’s now politically inconvenient for him — as an ‘exaggeration.’”

Imagine what the political world — specifically, campaign reporters — would do if John Kerry or Al Gore called their own rhetoric about their key policy priority an “exaggeration.” Voters would never hear the end of it.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.