Mitt Romney's Off Message, Pretzel-Like Week

It’s a tax! No, it’s a penalty. No, wait. Upon further reflection, it’s a tax again!

When the Supreme Court ruled in President Obama’s favor regarding his health care law, it also handed Mitt Romney and Republicans a giant talking point.

By referring to the Obamacare individual mandate as a “tax,” the Supreme Court allowed the GOP to  attack Mr. Obama for passing a tax increase on the middle class. But Mitt Romney had a problem: Since he had passed a similar mandate while serving as the Governor of Massachusetts, he was reluctant to label the mandate a “tax” (otherwise, he could be accused of the same tax-raising charge). 

Two days ago, Mitt Romney’s senior adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, told NBC’s Chuck Todd that Mr. Romney viewed the individual mandate as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” In so doing, he gave away a huge talking point.

Republicans rebelled, and Governor Romney suddenly backtracked, labeling the individual mandate a tax. Talk about message inconsistency!

Now’s the point in the article when I get to write, “I told you so.” Governor Romney is twisting himself into pretzel-like contortions because of a bad decision he made early last year.

On March 8, 2011, I wrote an article called “Mitt Romney’s Choice.”

In that post, I maintained that Mitt Romney had three choices regarding the health care plan he passed while serving as the Governor of Massachusetts. The three choices were:

1. Defend Unequivocally: Mr. Romney can defend his state’s 2006 health care bill without making any excuses for the bill.

2. Defend Partially: He can defend pieces of his legislation while attempting to distance himself from the more controversial parts.

3. Admit He Was Wrong: Mr. Romney can admit he was wrong regarding the individual mandate and say he has learned from the mistake. Problematically for Mr. Romney, this option opens him up to the recurring charge that he is a “flip-flopper.”

 

I concluded that:

“He can continue defending his health care law in the hopes that the issue becomes less important to primary voters. But barring a big international or domestic event, that seems unlikely….His better choice is to disown his Massachusetts plan, calling it well-intentioned but wrong.”

 

Had he followed my advice, he would have been able to own the Supreme Court decision and use it to label the President a “tax and spend liberal.” He didn’t. And as a result, he’s twisting himself into more contortions than an Olympic gymnast.

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