Conservatives Urge Romney to Tighten Up Campaign
Washington. Only four months out from the US election, Republican Mitt Romney has strayed off message in confusion over exactly how to characterize President Barack Obama’s controversial health insurance mandate.
Romney has repeatedly urged voters that he, as a former businessman and investor, is in better position than Obama to steady the American economy.
But since the US Supreme Court last week ruled that the president’s health care reforms are constitutional, Romney’s team has struggled to nail down a unified position on whether the Affordable Care Act is a tax or a penalty.
Conservative heavyweights are saying it’s time for Romney to tighten up his push for the White House and lay out a serious vision for his presidency or risk losing the presidential race to a vulnerable incumbent.
The Wall Street Journal launched a scathing rebuke of Romney on Thursday, saying there was “confusion” over his position on the Obama-backed individual mandate which requires Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a fine.
The Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional under Congress’s power to levy taxes.
Romney pushed through his own health care reforms while governor of Massachusetts, and he deemed the individual mandate which he supported in that plan to be a “penalty.”
On Wednesday he insisted that the fine imposed in the federal law was indeed a tax, contradicting a top advisor who essentially said the candidate agreed with the president’s position that the fine was a penalty under the tax code.
“If Mitt Romney loses his run for the White House, the turning point will have been his decision Monday to absolve President Obama of raising taxes on the middle class,” the Journal’s opinion piece began.
“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.”
The Journal also said Romney, on a week-long break from the campaign, was bolstering Obama’s attacks on him as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire.
“The rich man obliged by vacationing this week at his lake-side home with a jet-ski cameo,” the paper said, referring to photographs of Romney and his wife Ann buzzing around New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee on a watercraft.
Respected conservative analyst and commentator William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, was no less severe.
“Is it too much to ask Mitt Romney to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he’s running?” Kristol wrote on Thursday.
“Adopting a prevent defense when it’s only the second quarter and you’re not even ahead is dubious enough as a strategy.
“But his campaign’s mono-maniacal belief that it’s about the economy and only the economy, and that they need to keep telling us stupid voters that it’s only about the economy, has gone from being an annoying tick to a dangerous self-delusion.”
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, sounded almost giddy in goading Romney over the confusion.
“The difference between the Obama administration . . . and Mitt Romney is that we’ve been consistent: this is a penalty administered through the tax code,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told MSNBC.
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Romney was fortunate that the tax-versus-penalty issue arose four months out from election day while Americans were “at the beach” on holiday.
“This gives, I believe, the Romney team a window between now and the convention [in late August] to tighten the messaging up here, because it is problematic,” Steele said.
Despite the campaign hiccups, Romney enjoyed a spectacular month of fundraising, raking in more than $100 million in June, Washington-based publication Politico said Thursday.
The figure is a 2012 record and puts pressure on Obama, whose campaign has yet to announce its June totals.
Highlighting the high stakes and consistently savage personal nature of the campaign, Romney’s wife Ann slammed the president’s strategy.
“I feel like all he’s doing is saying, ‘let’s kill this guy,’” she told CBS News of Obama’s attacks against her husband.
Obama, on a bus tour to woo voters Thursday in the battleground state of Ohio, has painted Romney as an unsympathetic corporate raider.
“It makes you recognize that they are going to do everything they can to destroy Mitt,” the Republican challenger’s wife said.