The Obama campaign has seized on remarks made by Romney adviser Eric “Etch-A-Sketch” Fehrnstrom this morning on MSNBC, to the effect that the individual mandate in Obamacare (and Romneycare) is not a tax. Fehrnstrom allowed Chuck Todd to push him off message–and re-ignited the fears that conservatives have long had about Romney’s will and ability to fight. In response, conservatives–who had just coalesced around opposition to what many now call “Obamatax”–exhort: Mitt, start fighting, or give up and let someone else do it.
Fehrnstrom’s point–in defense of Romneycare–was that the Supreme Court was wrong to uphold Obamacare under the taxing power. The individual mandate was never intended to be a tax, Congress never called it a tax, and it wasn’t a tax in Massachusetts, either. Fine–but now that Obama’s lawyers went to court and called it a tax, and Chief Justice John Roberts called it a tax (and spare us the non-distinction between “tax” and the “taxing power”) Obamacare is, undeniably, a massive tax on the middle class. Obama lied. It’s that simple.
The GOP primary is over, and this is not a mistake that Fehrnstrom can merely shake away. It’s going to be used–and already is being used–by the Obama campaign to save itself from the tax argument, and to label Romney as a liar (when that label belongs squarely on Obama, who campaigned against Hillary Clinton’s individual mandate in 2008). Perhaps this is why Rupert Murdoch has been calling openly for Romney to “drop…old friends from [his] team and hire…some real pros,” as he did on Twitter yesterday.
The Tea Party has been ready to rally to Romney’s side over the Obamacare decision, overlooking his past in order to use him as the vehicle for repealing Obamacare and toppling Obama. But if Romney won’t fight for conservative principles, the Tea Party is going to start looking elsewhere–fast. No one wants to live through the frustration of October 2008 all over again. No one wants to watch another conservative capitulate to Obama.
This ain’t Etch-A-Sketch, Mitt. Go hard or go home.