"They demonstrate a lack of true commitment to repealing Obamacare. The conservative ear hears, 'We would keep some parts of Obamacare in place' as, 'We won't really repeal Obamacare,'" the aide said.
The provisions Romney mentioned are mandates, the aide noted, arguing that Republicans should focus on fixing such problems without government intervention.
"Conservatives don't trust Romney on health care as far as they can throw him, given his history," a Senate GOP aide said, referring to the Massachusetts law on which Romney worked extensively with Democrats. "But this seems to be a poor choice of words rather than a change in policy."
The House aide noted that given the choice in the presidential contest, even Republican Members who take issue with Romney's comments will not publicly repudiate him, for fear of endangering his chances of winning.
GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who is facing a tough re-election challenge from Democrat John Delaney in Maryland, said he agrees that insurance companies should not drop those with pre-existing conditions from their rolls and that young people should be able to stay on their parents' insurance.
"Of course I support those two things. That doesn't mean I don't think it shouldn't be repealed and start over because [there is no sense] trying to patch up something that is so bad that in 2,000 pages all you can find to support are these two issues," he said. "Of course, I'd rather the industry does this. But if the industry doesn't do it, it should be the states who do it. Congress doing it should be a last, last resort."
Still, the comments were not well-received among conservatives. In a Monday blog post on FreedomWorks' website, Dean Clancy, the group's legislative counsel and vice president of health care policy, asked whether Romney has "gone soft on full repeal."
Most of Romney's comments square with his position to repeal and replace the law, Clancy wrote. But Clancy did hint at a suspicion about whether Romney is committed to repealing the law.
"For now, I think supporters of patient-centered care should 'trust but verify,'" he wrote. "Let's give the author of RomneyCare the benefit of the doubt - and keep a close eye on him."