WASHINGTON – Republican 2012 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney refused to apologize Thursday for signing a health care reform law as governor of Massachusetts that closely reflects the controversial plan President Barack Obama enacted last year.

In a speech at the University of Michigan's Cardiovascular Center, Romney addressed the issue that could conceivably sink his hopes as he eyes his party's nomination for the presidency. He stood by his Massachusetts plan while promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected president.

"I respect the views of those who think that we took the wrong course," Romney said. "I also recognize that a lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say, this whole thing was a mistake -- it was just a boneheaded idea and I should just admit it and walk away from it. I presume folks would think that would be good for me politically. But there's only one problem with that: it wouldn't be honest. I in fact did what I thought was right for the people of my state."

Romney argued that what he thought was right for Massachusetts is not what he thinks is right for the country as a whole. The crux of his case was that states have a right to experiment with health care systems of their choosing, but the federal government cannot impose its ideas on states.

"This explanation is not going to satisfy everybody," he conceded.

Conservative activists told The Huffington Post's Jon Ward that the argument won't fly with the Republican base. It also won't help that Romney repeatedly declared in 2007 that he considered his law -- including the mandate -- as a model for national health care reform.

"I'd think it's a terrific idea," he said at the time, predicting that once states try out different ideas, "we'll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach."

The Massachusetts law and the Affordable Care Act both employ insurance regulations, subsidies and an individual mandate in an effort to achieve universal coverage.

Republicans strongly oppose the law, especially the mandate, and are pushing to overturn it as unconstitutional. The case is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

Image via Joeff, Creative Commons licensed