Late Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal editorial page posted a sharp critique of the way GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is handling his presidential campaign. The lambasting more than echoed skeptical Tweets from the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch.
It just so happens that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoken of in many quarters as a potential running mate for Romney, was in Gwinnett County this afternoon. (Take a look at the above photo – is that a vehicle for a man who wants to be vice president? He even had roadies.)
Rubio was in town – at Books-A-Million at Discover Mills (very close to Ralph Reed’s office, actually) – to push his new memoir, “An American Son.” So he was in no mood to give a sharp elbow to the man who will leave Tampa next month as the Republican nominee for president. Said Rubio:
”I haven’t heard what Mr. Murdoch said, and I’ve made it a policy not to comment on what other people say, other than to tell you that if you look at Governor Romney and the campaign that he’s run, they’ve done a fantastic job. He has weathered the storm of a pretty interesting primary cycle. He’s run for president – this is his second time. I think he learned many lessons in the first campaign.
“Look at where we are in terms of the polls. Many Americans aren’t even focused on the race yet. But the ones that are, are pretty clear – that they’re not better off than they were four years ago.”
As for what Rubio hadn’t read or seen or heard, here’s the top of the Wall Street Journal editorial – though it’s worth reading in full:
If Mitt Romney loses his run for the White House, a turning point will have been his decision Monday to absolve President Obama of raising taxes on the middle class. He is managing to turn the only possible silver lining in Chief Justice John Roberts’s ObamaCare salvage operation—that the mandate to buy insurance or pay a penalty is really a tax—into a second political defeat.
Appearing on MSNBC, close Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was asked by host Chuck Todd if Mr. Romney “agrees with the president” and “believes that you shouldn’t call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?”
“That’s correct,” Mr. Fehrnstrom replied, before attempting some hapless spin suggesting that Mr. Obama must be “held accountable” for his own “contradictory” statements on whether it is a penalty or tax. Predictably, the Obama campaign and the media blew past Mr. Fehrnstrom’s point, jumped on the tax-policy concession, and declared the health-care tax debate closed.
For conservative optimists who think Mr. Fehrnstrom misspoke or is merely dense, his tax absolution gift to Mr. Obama was confirmed by campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, who tried the same lame jujitsu spin. In any event, Mr. Fehrnstrom is part of the Boston coterie who are closest to Mr. Romney, and he wouldn’t say such a thing without the candidate’s approval.
In a stroke, the Romney campaign contradicted Republicans throughout the country who had used the Chief Justice’s opinion to declare accurately that Mr. Obama had raised taxes on the middle class. Three-quarters of those who will pay the mandate tax will make less than $120,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 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. This would let Mr. Romney show voters that Mr. Obama’s spending ambitions are so vast that they can’t be financed solely by the wealthy but will inevitably hit the middle class.
Democrats would point to the Massachusetts record, but Mr. Romney could reply that was before the Supreme Court had spoken, that he had promised Bay Staters not to raise taxes, and so now the right policy is to repeal the tax along with the rest of ObamaCare. The tragedy is that for the sake of not abandoning his faulty health-care legacy in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney is jeopardizing his chance at becoming President.
Perhaps Mr. Romney is slowly figuring this out, because in a July 4 interview he stated himself that the penalty now is a “tax” after all. But he offered no elaboration, and so the campaign looks confused in addition to being politically dumb.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider