So the individual mandate was not a tax but a penalty – and Mitt Romney didn't raise taxes as governor of Massachusetts. It was a rare moment of attempted consistency from the Romney camp, a decision for once not to follow the soundbite script of the conservative "movement" as they tried to run yet another campaign against a tax-and-spend "liberal". And it lasted about … a week or so. Or as long as it took the Romneyites to read the Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday. Money quote:
The Romney high command has muddied the tax issue in a way that will help Mr. Obama's claims that he is merely taxing rich folks like Mr. Romney. And it has made it that much harder for Republicans to again turn ObamaCare into the winning issue it was in 2010.
Why make such an unforced error? Because it fits with Mr. Romney's fear of being labeled a flip-flopper, as if that is worse than confusing voters about the tax and health-care issues. Mr. Romney favored the individual mandate as part of his reform in Massachusetts, and as we've said from the beginning of his candidacy his failure to admit that mistake makes him less able to carry the anti-ObamaCare case to voters.
Mr. Romney should use the Supreme Court opinion as an opening to say that now that the mandate is defined as a tax for the purposes of the law, he will work to repeal it.
And so Romney then repeats this formula almost verbatim hours later:
“The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation, and it said that it’s a tax, so it’s a tax. They have spoken. There’s no way around that.”
So Romney outsources his views to the conservative movement via SCOTUS just as he outsources his non-existent foreign policy to the generals and the neocons. What we're seeing is a candidate not strong enough to stand up to his base, but a candidate so weak he has to ventriloquize it.