Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is taking fire from the prominent conservative think tank Cato Institute for criticizing President Barack Obama's health care plan despite having enacted an "essentially identical" bill as governor of Massachusetts in 2006.

"As President Obama himself has pointed out, Romney is the guy who created the prototype for ObamaCare," said Cato's executive vice president David Boaz, in a new video posted at the institute's Web site. "How can he lead the charge against a health care plan that is modeled on his own?"

With opposition to health reform a key rallying point for the GOP, Romney's landmark accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts has turned into a potentially fatal threat to this 2012 presidential ambitions.

"When you run down this list of elements in the Obama plan and the Romney plan, they are all identical," said Michael Cannon, Cato's director of Health Policy Studies.

Both plans comprise a series of insurance regulations, subsidies and mandates to extend coverage to the uninsured. Both create insurance exchanges that allow individuals and small businesses to pool risk, and neither includes a government-run option.

The Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial board called the Obama and Romney measures "fraternal policy twins", noting that the former governor "signed a prototype of ObamaCare into law in Massachusetts."

The media has taken note, too.

The Associated Press recently ran a story last week headlined, "Romney attacks health care law similar to his own." The Christian Science Monitor wondered, "Who is the father of health care reform: Obama or Mitt Romney?"

Romney is widely considered the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He won the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll last weekend and came in second behind long-shot candidate Ron Paul at CPAC in February.

This story was first reported by Reid Wilson of the National Journal.

The video is from the Cato Institute.