Now that the Supreme Court has upheld ObamaCare as constitutional under the federal government's taxing power, "the Republican message machine is trying hard to accuse President Obama of increasing taxes on middle-class Americans," says Michael Shear at The New York Times. "But the party is doing so without the help of Mitt Romney." At first, the entire party was basically on the same page: Romney vowed to start dismantling the law on his first day in office, conservatives flooded his campaign with cash, and optimistic Republicans said the boost of anti-ObamaCare anger would sink Obama in November. But within a few days, cracks had appeared. On the Sunday shows, reporters started asking why, if ObamaCare is an onerous tax, Romney's very similar health reform package in Massachusetts wasn't a tax, too. GOP lawmakers either punted, saying state laws are different than federal ones or, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Fox News Sunday, "Gov. Romney will have to speak for himself about what was done in Massachusetts." Then, Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom "strayed wildly" off-message, agreeing with Democrats that ObamaCare's mandate to obtain health insurance isn't a tax. What should we make of the GOP's ObamaCare dissonance?
The Right may abandon Mitt: True conservatives were never excited about the GOP's 2012 standard-bearer, says Joel Pollak at Big Journalism, but we were "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." His team just undid that by throwing the "ObamaTax" message under the bus. If Romney won't fight for conservative principles, conservatives are "going to start looking elsewhere — fast."
"Conservatives to Mitt: Quit now if you won't fight ObamaTax!"
No. The GOP will still rally behind its man: This flap is just a reminder that "the health care issue has always been an exceedingly tricky one" for Romney," says Scott Conroy at Real Clear Politics. Stilll, the damage is mitigated by the fact that it was an aide who went off-message; Romney himself has been remarkably on his message: Economy, economy, economy. If he adds repealing ObamaCare as "a top talking point," all will be forgiven. After all, Republicans are very aware that electing Romney "is now their last remaining hope of repealing the law."
"Romney's latest health care quandary"
This hurts, but it won't sink Romney: Fehrnstrom's attempt to save Romney from the tax-hike label is "a punch in the stomach to GOPers who have been revving up to use the tax issue against Obama," says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice, and it really does neuter the party's ObamaCare message. And yet, though Democrats will draw some blood, "I'm betting most Republican partisans will give Romney a pass." The real lesson? "How meaningless most of the chest-beating that goes on in American politics is today."
"Making Dems smile?... Romney does not believe health care mandate is a tax"
Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.