So just when Republicans had decided their new argument against Obamacare is that it's a tax ... the Mitt Romney campaign steps up to the plate and ... disagrees?
CHUCK TODD (MSNBC): What you just said is that Governor Romney agrees that it's not a tax. But you guys call it a penalty.Oops. Thanks for the assist, Eric.
ERIC FEHRNSTROM (TOP ROMNEY AIDE): The governor disagreed with the court. He agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice Scalia which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax.
TODD: So ... I think we're talking around each other. The governor does not believe the mandate is a tax, that's what you're saying?
FEHRNSTROM: The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax.
TODD: But he agrees with the president that it is not, that you shouldn't call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?
FEHRNSTROM: That's correct.
Really, this is a stupid debate, though. Using the government's taxing power to impose a tax penalty on a small number of people isn't the same thing as raising income taxes for everybody, and Republicans know it. Trying to claim otherwise is moronic. To be fair, however, it's not as moronic as nominating the father of Obamacare if your party's central message is that Obamacare must be repealed.