Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom has had some massive gaffes in his time with the campaign. There was his Etch-a-Sketch declaration, and there was his describing women’s issues as “shiny objects.” His latest gaffe is comparatively minor: he has only undermined all GOP messaging on the Affordable Care Act ruling.
“The governor disagreed with the ruling of this court,” Fehrnstrom said in an interview on MSNBC, adding, “he agreed with the dissent, which was written by Justice Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax.”
Pressed by Chuck Todd to clarify whether former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney believes the mandate is a tax, Fehrnstrom went further, tying the Affordable Care Act directly to the health care reform passed under Romney in Massachusetts.
“The governor believes what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the Court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax,” Fehrnstrom said.
The Affordable Care Act was modeled in many ways on health care reform signed into law by Romney. Crucially, both laws include a mandate that people either carry health care or pay a tax penalty.
Fehrnstrom’s statement is a double blow to GOP messaging on health care. The statement reminds voters that the differences between Romneycare and Obamacare are minor, and that Romney’s stated opposition to the Affordable Care Act is more about political expediency than any kind of core conviction. It also undoes the Republican messaging on the health care law, which is that the Supreme Court’s ruling means that the Affordable Care Act is “the biggest tax increase ever.”
While the Affordable Care Act is most certainly not the biggest tax increase in US history, Fehrnstrom has managed to take a hatchet to the argument, which other Republicans were happy to make regardless of accuracy.
Fehrnstrom did gamely try to argue that President Barack Obama has been hypocritical in his discussion of the bill. “He has described it variously as a penalty and as a tax. He needs to reconcile those two very different statements,” Fehrnstrom said.
That’s a tough argument for a campaign to make when its candidate has been on record championing the very plan he now opposes. If anyone needs to reconcile very different statements, it’s Mitt Romney.
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