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Romney: Obama's Health Mandate Is A Tax

Originally published on July 5, 2012 10:25 pm

Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney spent his July Fourth holiday marching in a New Hampshire parade, and backtracking statements a top adviser made about the individual mandate in the Obama health care law.

There was something for almost everybody in Wolfeboro's Independence Day parade: a local brass band, bonnet-wearing Daughters of the American Revolution, a Zumba instructor shimmying across the bed of a pickup truck, and even a Jimmy Durante impersonator, complete with prosthetic nose.

Romney, who has a house on Lake Winnipesaukee, was decidedly at ease as he marched down Wolfeboro's main street. He was joined by his wife, Ann, a pack of supporters wearing blue T-shirts and also about 20 family members, most of whom traveled the parade route in antique trolley cars. By and large, they and their family's patriarch got a warm welcome in this very Republican small town.

"We love Mitt. He's going to be great for America," says Jeff Bichard, who lives in Wolfeboro and manages a fleet of trucks for a lighting company.

Bichard is convinced Romney will invigorate the economy, and he plans to work hard to help Romney carry the state, where recent polls show the former Massachusetts governor and President Obama in a near dead heat.

"I am picking up a sign for my house," Bichard adds. "I am going to put it on my front lawn, and I'm going to get a T-shirt and I've got it on my hat. We love Mitt."

But love was by no means the only emotion at this parade. Pat Jones, a 70-year-old former postmaster, shaded her eyes and shook her head as she watched one Romney after another wave and smile from their wooden trolleys.

"Would you ask Mitt how much a loaf of bread costs, how much a gallon of gas is and how much heating oil is?" Jones asks. "He is so removed from all of this. His world is so different from the common man."

Her husband, John Paul Jones, was quick to utter the epithet that has dogged Romney for years: "He's a flip-flopper."

That's a message Democrats will be selling, and Romney gave them some fresh ammunition.

"The majority of the [Supreme] Court said it's a tax, and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken. There is no way around that. You can try and say you wished they had decided another way, but they didn't," Romney told CBS News regarding the requirement that all Americans have insurance.

The individual mandate is at the core of Obama's health insurance overhaul. It's also the linchpin of the health law Romney passed as Massachusetts governor.

Earlier this week, a top Romney adviser said Romney viewed the mandate in the federal health law the same way he saw it in the Massachusetts law, as a fee or a fine, and not a tax. Romney's remarks to CBS directly contradicted that. Romney's new stance made him sound more like the GOP leaders in Congress.

"The American people know that President Obama has broken the pledge he made; he said he wouldn't raise taxes on middle-income Americans," Romney said.

That's an accusation Romney may soon hear turned against him. But on this day, the fighting words were mostly left unsaid.

When Romney spoke at a brief rally in Wolfeboro, he never mentioned the president. He even took pains to compliment the behavior of Obama supporters he met during the parade.

"They were courteous and respectful and said, 'Good luck to you' and 'Happy Fourth of July.' This is a time for us to come together as a people," Romney said.

Romney also said he hopes to make America more like America. And while it's hard to know precisely what that means, it's a hard point to argue with on Independence Day.

Copyright 2012 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.nhpr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Four months from this week, Americans will vote for president, and the candidates are refining the themes they want to lay out this fall.

INSKEEP: On the Fourth of July, Republican Mitt Romney tweaked his attack on President Obama's health care law. He said the requirement to buy health insurance or pay a penalty is a tax.

WERTHEIMER: The Supreme Court upheld the law based on the taxing authority of Congress. What makes that awkward is that just three days ago, a Romney advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the individual mandate is not a tax, but a penalty.

INSKEEP: Romney campaigned yesterday in New England's only swing state, as Josh Rogers of New Hampshire Public Radio reports.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: There was something for almost everybody in Wolfeboro's Fourth of July parade. There was the local brass band. There were bonnet-wearing Daughters of the American Revolution. There was a Zumba instructor shimmying across the bed of a pickup truck.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ROGERS: There was even a Jimmy Durante impersonator, complete with prosthetic nose.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Jimmy Durante) (Singing) Once upon a time, they sang the fo-lo-dee-oh-do. But that was long ago.

ROGERS: There was also a great deal of a certain summer resident who has a house on the lake.

(LAUGHTER)

MITT ROMNEY: Hi. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Good.

ROMNEY: Happy Fourth of July.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thank you.

ROMNEY: Hi, there. Happy Fourth to you.

ROGERS: Mitt Romney was decidedly at ease as he marched down Wolfeboro's main street. He was joined by his wife Ann, a pack of supporters wearing blue T-shirts, and also by about 20 family members, most of whom travelled the parade route in antique trolley cars. By and large, they and their family's patriarch got a warm welcome in this very Republican small town.

JEFF BICHARD: We love Mitt. He's going to be great for America.

ROGERS: Jeff Bichard lives in Wolfeboro and manages a fleet of trucks for a lighting company. He's convinced Romney will invigorate the economy, and he plans to work hard to help Romney carry the state, where recent polls show the former Massachusetts governor and President Obama in a near dead heat.

BICHARD: I'm all over it. I'm picking up a sign for my house tomorrow, and I'm going to put it on my front lawn. I'm going to get a T-shirt. I've got it on my hat. We love Mitt.

ROGERS: But love was by no means the only emotion at this parade. Pat Jones, a 70-year-old former postmaster, shaded her eyes and shook her head as she watched one Romney after another wave and smile from their gleaming, wooden trolleys.

PAT JONES: Would you ask Mitt if he knows how much a loaf of bread costs, how much a gallon of gas is and how much heating oil is? He's so removed from all of this. His world is so different from the common man.

ROGERS: Her husband John Paul was quick to utter the epithet that's dogged Romney for years.

JOHN PAUL JONES: He's a flip-flopper.

ROGERS: That's a message Democrats will be selling, and yesterday, Romney gave them some fresh ammunition.

(SOUNDBITE OF CBS NEWS BROADCAST)

ROMNEY: The majority of the court said it's a tax, and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken. There's no way around that. You can try and say you wished they had decided a different way, but they didn't.

ROGERS: That was Romney speaking to CBS News. Romney was talking about the requirement that all Americans have insurance. The individual mandate is at the core of President Obama's health insurance overhaul. It's also the linchpin of the health law Romney himself passed as Massachusetts governor.

Earlier this week, a top Romney adviser said Romney viewed the mandate in the federal health law the same way he saw it in the Massachusetts law, as a fee or a fine, and not as a tax. Romney's remarks to CBS yesterday directly contradicted that. Romney's new stance had him sounding a lot more like GOP leaders in Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF CBS BROADCAST)

ROMNEY: The American people know that President Obama has broken the pledge he made. He said he wouldn't raise taxes on middle-income Americans.

ROGERS: That's an accusation Romney may soon hear turned against him. But on this day, the fighting words were mostly left unsaid.

When Romney spoke at a brief rally in Wolfeboro, he never mentioned the president. He even took pains to compliment the behavior of Obama supporters he met during the parade.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: They were courteous and respectful and said good luck to you, and Happy Fourth of July. This is a time for us to come together as a people.

ROGERS: Romney also said he hopes to make America more like America. And while it's hard to know precisely what that means, it's a hard point to argue with on the Fourth of July.

For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.