President Obama, in an interview with WLWT in Cincinnati that’s set to air today, slammed Mitt Romney for flip flopping on whether Obamacare’s individual mandate is a tax:
“The fact that a whole bunch of Republicans in Washington suddenly said, this is a tax — for six years he said it wasn’t, and now he has suddenly reversed himself. So the question becomes, are you doing that because of politics? Are you abandoning a principle that you fought for, for six years simply because you’re getting pressure for two days from Rush Limbaugh or some critics in Washington?
“One of the things that you learn as president is that what you say matters and your principles matter. And sometimes, you’ve got to fight for things that you believe in and you can’t just switch on a dime.”
Obama is wrong — Romney has repeatedly referred to his own individual mandate as a tax in the past. And Romney has never abandoned the principle driving state-level individual mandates. But Romney did, in fact, do a 180 on whether Obamacare’s mandate is a tax, after conservatives revolted against his campaign’s assertion that it wasn’t. And he has, in fact, flip-flopped on whether his own mandate is a tax.
Romney’s current position is that Obamacare’s mandate is a tax because the Supreme Court says it is one; and that his own mandate isn’t a tax because it has been able to survive on the state level without being designated as one by the courts.
So, to recap: In the past Romney repeatedly described his own mandate as a tax. Then his campaign said Obama’s mandate isn’t a tax. Then Romney reversed that and claimed Obama’s mandate is a tax. And then he reversed his own previous assertions and claimed his own mandate isn’t a tax. That isn’t an exaggeration. That really is what happened.
Obama’s reference to Rush Limbaugh suggests that he and his campaign are in the midst of a two-pronged effort to define Romney as lacking the principles, values and fortitude to fight for the interests of the middle class. The attacks on Bain, outsourcing and his offshore accounts are all about casting him as someone who is trying to sell you the bill of goods that whatever enriches the wealthy must be good for everyone else — while in reality Romney was an active participant in, and beneficiary of, broader trends that hollowed out the middle class. Now the campaign is using the mandate dust-up to argue that Romney lacks the core convictions to stand up to conservative voices in his party, casting him as lacking in character and backbone. These two arguments were linked the other day in that Obama campaign ad slamming Romney over outsourcing and arguing that “what a president believes matters.”
* Bad jobs numbers — again: More disappointing news:
Nonfarm payroll employment continued to edge up in June (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today...
The revisions of previous months are a wash:
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for April was revised from +77,000 to +68,000, and the change for May was revised from+69,000 to +77,000.
This could enable Romney to swing the campaign back to the economy on terms very favorable to him, ending a stint where the SCOTUS ruling, his equivocations about the mandate, and increasingly loud hand-wringing from conservatives about his campaign seemed to knock him off stride.
* Romney repeatedly described his mandate as a tax: Michael Shear and Ashley Parker devote a stand-alone piece to documenting the repeated instances Romney referred to his own individual mandate as a tax — an epithet that’s central to the GOP’s case against Obama and his mandate. Their conclusion: Romney is in effect asking voters to “ignore his own record.”
* Republicans ask: Where’s the Bain pushback? Yesterday I asked why there had been no real Romney pushback in the swing states against the Obama campaign’s Bain/offshoring onslaught. McKay Coppins finds that Republicans are increasingly asking themselves the same thing — and that the Romney campaign is not willing to offer an explanation for their relative silence.
* Debunking Romney’s Bain pushback: Paul Krugman has a great column taking apart the Romney campaign’s outsourcing/offshoring distinction and arguing that the question of how Romney made all that money is not only fair game, but a clear sign that he would not be America’s “economic savior.” The key is that Romney participated in the trends that hollowed out the American middle class:
outsourcing is only one source of the huge disconnect between a tiny elite and ordinary American workers, a disconnect that has been growing for more than 30 years. And Bain, in turn, was only one player in the growth of outsourcing. So Mitt Romney didn’t personally, single-handedly, destroy the middle-class society we used to have. He was, however, an enthusiastic and very well remunerated participant in the process of destruction...
The question now, as I noted the other day, is whether the Obama campaign can get voters to understand this in the context of the forward-looking argument over how jobs are created and over what we should do to fix the economy and secure our future.
* Debunking Romney’s Jimmy Carter talking point: Great stuff from Bloomberg News:
Mitt Romney has suggested that President Barack Obama has done a worse job managing the economy than Jimmy Carter. Investors disagree.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of stock prices has surged 70 percent under Obama, more than three times the 19 percent increase seen during President Carter’s first 3-1/2 years in office starting in 1977. The corporate and government bond markets also have outperformed, with yields falling rather than rising. And the dollar has fared better, dropping about 4 percent against major currencies since Obama took over, compared with an almost 20 percent decline under Carter at a similar time in his tenure.
Today’s jobs numbers, of course, complicate this narrative a bit.
* Romney “shake-up” talk grows louder: Some Republicans think the Romney campaign will have to shake up its staff, or at least add some new big names, to quiet the increasingly loud worries about his campaign. But the jobs numbers could very well quiet that talk and allow the Romney campaign to reset.
* Transportation bill to be signed: Obama will sign the big highway bill in Washington today — a victory for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Sen. Barbara Boxer, among many others — and a rare moment this year of Congress showing itself capable of doing big things.
* And states against Citizens United: California has now become the sixth state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, in a movement being spearheaded by a number of good government groups. Activists say they are under no illusions about the difficulties of realizing this goal.
But the massive amounts of money sloshing into the 2012 presidential election (the first to be held since the decision) from wealthy donors who are already wielding outsized influence over the process leaves them no alternative but to try, in hopes of getting a national conversation going.