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Fueling speculation that she is actively courting a vice presidential nomination from the perceived 2012 GOP frontrunner, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley gave former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a wide berth when discussing his version of socialized medicine.

In an interview on Tuesday with Talking Points Memo – one of the nation’s most prominent left-leaning new media outlets – Haley said that Romney showed “courage” in pushing his state’s plan, which has ballooned Massachusetts’ Medicaid rolls and dramatically increased the cost of private insurance.

“I think what we don’t want is for states to have mandates on them like what President (Barack) Obama’s done,” Haley told TPM. “Massachusetts made a decision within their state and they decided that was right for them. It certainly is not right for South Carolina, it’s not something I want to see, so what we want to hear from him is that this isn’t something he’s going to impose as President across all states in the country.”

Wait … what? What kind of a “position” is that?

The debate over Romneycare has taken center stage in the 2012 election. Specifically, Republican primary voters are awaiting an address from Romney on Thursday that will outline his plan “to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that lower costs and empower states to craft their own health care solutions.”

This could be a political two-step for the ages, as both “Romneycare” and “Obamcare” feature individual mandates that require private citizens to purchase health coverage. Both laws also impose draconian new requirements on insurance companies while creating government-run exchanges to further regulate the health care marketplace.

Want more on the similarities between the two bills? Check out this video released last week by the Cato Institute …

What do Obamacare and Romneycare have to do with Haley?

Well, South Carolina’s new governor won a narrower-than-expected victory in 2010 – an election in which she benefited from $900,000 worth of ads paid for by the Republican Governors’ Association. Those ads specifically attacked her opponent Vincent Sheheen as a supporter of Obamacare – a criticism Haley echoed herself.

“The last thing we can afford is a governor who supports ObamaCare like Vince Sheheen,” Haley said just weeks before South Carolina voters went to the polls.

Apparently one politician’s albatross is another candidate’s courageousness.

“(Romney) made it very clear then that this was a state decision and he actually showed a lot of courage to say ‘I’m going to get out there and try and see if this is going to work,'” Haley told TPM. “I think there’s mixed reviews on whether it worked or not. What I can tell you is we don’t want to try it in South Carolina and so our main concern, or our main thought, from him is to make sure that he says this is not going to (go) national. This may have been something we did in our state, we tried it, but we’re going to leave states to make those decisions for themselves.”

Haley’s comments parroted remarks made by Romney over a year ago when Obamacare was rammed through the U.S. Congress on a party-line vote.

“We solved our problem at the state level,” said Romney. “Why is it that President Obama is stepping in and saying ‘one size fits all?'”

Wait … Romneycare’s reviews are “mixed?” And it “solved” Massachusetts health care problem?

Last time we checked the program had been an unmitigated disaster – raising health care costs and sticking Massachusetts taxpayers with a massive new entitlement burden.

“Romneycare expanded coverage simply by putting more people on the dole,”  a recent Forbes column noted. “Since 2006, 440,000 people have been added to state-funded insurance rolls. Medicaid enrollment alone is up nearly 25 percent, and Massachusetts is struggling to cover the cost.”

That doesn’t sound like much of a solution to us. Nonetheless Romney has called his health care proposal “the ultimate conservative plan” while decrying Obama’s new law as “an unconstitutional power grab.”

Also, if Haley is such a die-hard opponent of Obamacare, why did she sign an executive order authorizing the establishment of the new law’s controversial government-run exchanges? And if government-run health care is so bad – why has Haley authorized a pair of $100 million Medicaid bailouts since taking office?

Haley endorsed Romney in 2008 – a favor he returned in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

“She has a proven conservative record of fighting wasteful spending and advocating for smaller, more efficient government,” Romney said of Haley. “I’m honored to call her my friend and prouder still to endorse her campaign for governor.”

Haley has been playing the field so far as the 2012 race shapes up, but these recent pro-Romney comments are the clearest indications yet that she is actively jockeying for a spot on his vice-presidential shortlist.

HALEY TALKING POINTS MEMO INTERVIEW

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