DeMint walks fine line on Romney health plan

A major voice for fiscal conservatives and the Tea Party, DeMint also noted Romney had assured him of his intentions to repeal Obama's law if he's elected president.

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“He’s committed to — one of the first acts is to give waivers to every state and then hopefully we can officially repeal the thing through legislation," said DeMint, who has not endorsed a candidate and said he plans to meet with all the GOP contenders.

But one year earlier, a DeMint source said Romney's plan was a "colossal mistake" and a barrier to the senator supporting Romney.

In 2011, after DeMint told The Hill that Democratic state lawmakers had saddled Romney's plan with regrettable mandates, a source close to DeMint later clarified that the senator wouldn't support the former Massachusetts governor unless he repudiated his health plan.

"It's obvious Jim was just trying to be nice to the guy he backed over McCain, as many conservatives did in 2008," the source said in March 2011. "But he would never consider backing Romney again unless he admits that his Massachusetts healthcare plan was a colossal mistake."

When DeMint endorsed Romney in 2008, he praised Massachusetts's healthcare law and Romney's role in getting it passed. But both the Obama plan and the Massachusetts law contain an individual mandate, which conservatives despise.

DeMint later clarified his praise to say the law Romney signed was good for Massachusetts but not right for the federal level — which is similar to the argument Romney makes when defending his Massachusetts plan.

— Alexander Bolton contributed.