The Republican response to last week’s Supreme Court decision was something to see. Upon losing the constitutional argument, they refocused their outrage immediately, this time targeting the court’s ruling that the enforcement mechanism behind the health-insurance mandate is a tax.
The synchronicity and speed of the shift were impressive to say the least. Within an hour or two of the ruling, the entire conservative movement had taken up the tax howl, and the raised voices chanting in unison instilled a confidence among many on the right that the ruling had “awakened a sleeping giant.”
Mitt Romney, however, wants to tuck that giant back into bed and feed him three Ambien washed down with a glass of nice, warm milk.
From National Journal, under the headline “Romney Campaign Declaring Cease Fire on Health Care”:
“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court health care ruling, the early conventional wisdom was that an unfavorable health care ruling at the court would be good for Republicans politically, even as it was a serious policy setback for conservatives. But that’s not shaping up to be the case.
Mitt Romney, after giving a brief statement decrying the decision, has been virtually silent on criticizing the health care law. He’s been on vacation and his campaign has been giving off clear signals that it doesn’t want to make health care a major part of the election.
His senior adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, went on MSNBC Monday and ended up agreeing with the Obama campaign’s spin that, even though the Supreme Court declared the individual mandate a tax, it really still is a penalty. Significantly, his campaign appears to want to take the most potent argument against the president on the health care subject off the table, likely out of fear the Romney himself is vulnerable when it comes to his health care record. He, after all, supported a mandate as governor of Massachusetts, and doesn’t want that to be considered a tax, either.”
RIck Santorum isn’t right about a lot of things, but he was right about this one. He predicted that Romney’s role as a stepfather to ObamaCare would make it impossible for him to effectively attack the incumbent on the issue, and that is exactly what has happened.
The author of the National Journal piece, Josh Kraushaar, goes on to note that the Romney campaign’s cautious approach toward ObamaCare appears to be part of a larger strategy that he likens to a form of prevent defense:
“He’s avoided criticizing the administration’s handling of the botched Fast and Furious operation, even as it threatens to become a serious vulnerability for the president. He’s been silent in responding to Obama’s immigration executive order, not wanting to offend receptive Hispanics or appear like a flip-flopper. He appears more likely to tap a safe, bland running mate like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who won’t do him any harm but won’t benefit him much either. If the economy continues to sputter, that safe strategy might be enough. If not, his options are limited.”
I’d also note that teams typically employ a prevent defense when they’re protecting a lead, not when they’re behind. And as the polling compilation from RealClearPolitics demonstrates, that’s exactly where Romney finds himself. His deficit isn’t large, but it’s been pretty consistent.
– Jay Bookman