The PJ Tatler

Romney Advisor Calls Obamacare Tax a Penalty

Fox Media President Rupert Murdoch recently tweeted:

Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful.

Was this what ole’ Rupe was talking about?

Prominent Dems including White House chief of staff Jack Lew and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have repeatedly argued in recent days that the fee for not buying insurance under the health care law is in fact a penalty and not a tax.

They got support from an unexpected quarter on Monday: the Romney campaign.

Mitt Romney’s senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown that he agrees – the fee is a penalty and not a tax, as the Supreme Court ruled last week.

“The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court,” Fehrnstrom said. “He agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice [Antonin] Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax.”

Some Republicans latched on to the ruling last week as proof that the health insurance mandate qualifies as a tax. Rush Limbaugh notably called it “the biggest tax increase in the history of the world.”

While Fehrnstrom diverged from that line of attack, he took issue with President Obama’s various positions on the tax vs. penalty issue, saying that Obama first said it wasn’t a tax to get it through Congress, then argued at the Supreme Court that it was, before switching again and arguing that it wasn’t.

Barack Obama set the ball on a tee for Romney and Fehrnstrom swings and misses for him.

The issue of a tax is so much easier to illustrate, and so much deadlier a line of attack, for Fehrnstom to destroy his candidate’s advantage so unthinkingly makes Murdoch’s case for him.

Fehrnstrom is a loyalist. He’s been with Romney through two presidential campaigns, as well as earlier Romney races. But what’s his experience running a national campaign? In March, he blurted out, “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again,” referring to Romney’s “pivot” to the center for the general election.

This is what Murdoch was referring to. Fehrnstrom may demonstrate dog-like faithfulness to his candidate but guys like him are going to have their lunch eaten by the likes of Axelrod and Plouffe. The advisor’s untimely and incomprehensible agreement with Democrats on the Obamacare tax issue should convince the candidate to ease Mr. Fehrnstrom into the background and bring on board some pit bulls who know where the opponent’s jugular is and once latched on, refuse to let go until he stops struggling.