Tardy For The Party? Romney Belatedly Echoes GOP Line On Obamacare (The Note)

Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • SEMANTIC GYMNASTICS: In a Fourth of July interview Mitt Romney sought to bring his position on last week's Supreme Court ruling on health care reform in line with Republican messaging on the issue. "The majority of the court said it is a tax, and therefore it is a tax," Romney told CBS News yesterday in New Hampshire. But did his comments come too late or just in the nick of time? Conservative ire over the Romney campaign's contradictory statements appears to have already reached a boiling point. "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," a scathing Wall Street Journal editorial noted today.
  • ROAD WARRIOR: PRESIDENT KICKS OFF SWING STATE BUS TOUR. President Obama kicks off a two-day bus tour in Ohio and Pennsylvania today. As Reuters' Jeff Mason notes, the president "is launching his first bus tour of the 2012 campaign against a backdrop of mixed poll numbers, fundraising challenges, and outside threats to an economy that could derail his chances of re-election." http://yhoo.it/NCdW9r
  • A TALE OF TWO BUS TOURS. Obama will make public appearances in four counties, and he carried their total vote by 27 percentage points in 2008. If they made up a state, Obama would have won it 63 percent to 36 percent. Contrast that to Romney's recent bus tour, on which the former governor ventured into hostile territory. While Obama will play some defense, Romney played mostly offense. In the 15 counties Romney visited, Obama carried the total vote by 5 percentage points. Counting all votes cast, Obama defeated McCain 50 percent to 45 percent in Romney's bus-tour counties. http://abcn.ws/NamzLQ


No one is pure when it comes to word choice over health care reform.

Certainly not Mitt Romney, who declared in an interview yesterday with CBS' Jan Crawford that "the majority of the court said it is a tax, and therefore it is a tax."

Romney added, "They have spoken. There's no way around that. You can try and say you wish they had decided a different way, but they didn't." http://abcn.ws/NC5iaR

Romney affirmed the decision reached last week by the Supreme Court in a way that one of his top advisers - Eric Fehrnstrom - refused to just a few days ago.

(Recall that Fehrnstrom said, "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." Pressed by MSNBC's Chuck Todd about whether Romney would call it "a penalty or a fee or a fine" rather than a tax, the adviser replied: "That's correct.")

Romney's comment yesterday came after days of Republican attacks on the president's signature health care reform law as a "tax," but conservatives do not appear to be giving Romney many points for the agility it took to jump on the Obamacare bandwagon while it was already moving.

A particularly feisty Wall Street Journal editorial in today's paper offered up a scathing critique of the Romney campaign's response to the health care ruling, dismissing their shifting positions as "lame jujitsu spin."

Romney, the Journal's editorial board wrote, 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."

And take a look at these words by the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, who often has his finger on the pulse of the conservative community:

"Mitt Romney is in danger of losing his footing on the healthcare issue," Brody wrote in an commentary this morning. "The mainstream media (and some conservative media too) will be relentless on him until he can somehow come up with a coherent answer to this question: 'Is the individual mandate in Obamacare a tax?' Right now it appears Romney is trying to have it both ways." http://bit.ly/NaEwKx

Romney had to backtrack on Fehrnstrom's comments, but the Obama campaign and the White House's persistent refusal to acknowledge the term "tax" is just as awkward.

The fact is, on health care, both candidates have flip-flops and contradictions. President Obama once campaigned against the individual mandate; Romney pushed for it as governor of Massachusetts.

All of this means that in the end, both campaigns are going to spend as little time as possible talking about the issue between now and November 6.

Get more pure politics at ABC News.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com

BUS TOUR MESSAGING PREVIEW: BAIN IS BACK. Bloomberg News' Kate Andersen Brower reports that during President Obama's two-day "Betting on America" bus tour, he plans to "draw a contrast with Republican Mitt Romney, a former private-equity executive who invested overseas. Polls show that linking Romney to the outsourcing of U.S. jobs when he was at Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, which he co- founded, is an effective approach with voters in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Obama will end the trip. 'If the election's about Romney and Bain, then the president's going to win,' said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. 'For Romney, it has to be about Obama: Obama and jobs, Obama and leadership, Obama and the economy, and Obama and health-care.'" http://bloom.bg/PbBHvc

6 THINGS TO WATCH ON OBAMA'S ROAD SHOW. ABC's Devin Dwyer gives us a list http://abcn.ws/MWFKK2

-OBAMA TALKING POINTS: ROMNEY VS. AMERICA. "President Obama is betting on America, not against it," said [former Ohio governor Ted] Strickland on a conference call with reporters ahead of Obama's trip. … The polarized pitch is an effort to shore up support among the president's blue collar base and convince swing voters that the Republican doesn't have their interests at heart.

-OFFENSE OR DEFENSE? Obama's itinerary across northern Ohio into western Pennsylvania covers friendly turf that he won comfortably in 2008 … There will be no forays into "red," Republican-leaning counties to directly confront potentially persuadable voters. Even so, Obama campaign officials reject the notion that this is a purely defensive trip, noting that many of the media markets associated with stops along the way also cover counties that voted for John McCain. http://abcn.ws/NamzLQ

-THE LONELY ROAD. While Romney included his wife and sons on a bus tour last month, Obama will be trucking solo today and Friday with only the company of aides and the U.S. Secret Service. First lady Michelle Obama and the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, significant assets to the president's campaign, likely won't be deployed on the trail as an entire family until later this summer.

-ICE CREAM IN OHIO. Nothing says campaign season like an ice cream social with a political candidate. Obama will host his first of the year in Sandusky, Ohio, this afternoon at Washington Park, just across the bay from the iconic Cedar Point amusement park.

-PAWLENTY, JINDAL WILL TRAIL OBAMA. Republican former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal-both possible vice presidential picks-will be shadowing Obama as he treks across the Buckeye State today. You won't be able to miss them: Theirs is the bus traversing the interstates between Toledo, Ohio, Cleveland and Pittsburgh emblazoned with "Romney for America."

-WILD CARD: JUNE JOBS REPORT. When Obama wakes up in Akron, Ohio, on Friday morning-the mid-point of his bus tour-he may be in for a message-eclipsing (or message-boosting) jolt. The Labor Department will release the June employment report at 8:30 a.m. ET.

WHAT'S GREETING OBAMA IN OHIO? The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Henry J. Gomez explains: "Barack Obama carried Mahoning and Trumbull counties by double digits four years ago and is in no danger of losing either this November. Republicans nevertheless see an opportunity to peel away votes in a Democratic stronghold, a strategy they believe can help them shave the 4 percentage points that Obama won battleground Ohio by in 2008.

"Obama … failed to match Democrat John Kerry's 2004 totals in the Valley. … Dan Polivka, the party chairman in Trumbull County, does not see race as an issue for Obama, the nation's first black president. But he believes Obama has alienated Catholic Democrats, of which there are many in the Valley. Specifically, Polivka noted Obama's support for abortion rights and his recent announcement that he supports gay marriage. …But the president can play a card here that he didn't have in 2008. The federal government's loans to rescue Chrysler and General Motors, a program begun under Bush and continued with Obama's support, helped the moribund U.S. auto industry rebound. GM operates a plant in Lordstown, off the Ohio Turnpike between Mahoning and Trumbull counties." http://bit.ly/M1bGi1

OBAMA TO ANNOUNCE TRADE SUIT AGAINST CHINA. The Toledo Blade's Tom Troy reports: "Demonstrating a tough line on trade with China, the Obama Administration will file an unfair trade complaint today against China's new duties on some American-made cars and sport utility vehicles, including the Toledo-made Jeep Wrangler. A senior administration official told The Blade Wednesday the United States will file the case with the World Trade Organization in Geneva, accusing China of putting illegal duties on $3.3 billion worth of U.S.-made auto imports." http://bit.ly/M7SjjP

PORTMAN OP-ED: OBAMA STIFLES RECOVERY. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, speculated to be on Mitt Romney's VP shortlist, writes in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "To get the economy back on track, we can't continue with the status quo. Bigger government, more regulations, higher taxes, record federal spending and massive borrowing haven't worked. Nor has anti-business rhetoric or class warfare. … It will require a pro-jobs agenda. It will require Washington to overhaul the tax code by lowering rates in exchange for closing loopholes. It will require Washington to provide regulatory relief to help small businesses grow." http://bit.ly/L2f0It

JOE THE PLUMBER: OBAMA SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED TO COME HERE. As President Obama's two-day bus tour kicks off in Ohio, ABC's Amy Bingham reports: Wurzelbacher said he'd steer clear of any Obama events and let his fellow Ohioans answer his questions in the 2012 race. "As of right now, I don't have any desire to go there," Wurzelbacher, who is now running for Congress on the Republican ticket, told ABC News. … "If I was Obama, I would be embarrassed to come here," Wurzelbacher said. http://abcn.ws/MAcI4f

GOP COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. Mitt Romney may still be vacationing in Wolfeboro, N.H., but two of his surrogates and possible running mates are hitting the road today making stops in the same towns in Ohio as the president, bracketing his campaign's first bus tour, ABC News' Shushannah Walshe notes. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as well as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be taking a Romney bus to Maumee and Parma, Ohio where the president will also be stopping on what they are calling "President Obama's Middle-Class Promise Gap Tour." Although those looking for a fight in the parking lot may be disappointed - the events are at different times and in different venues. We'll be watching how this latest round of the veep auditions go. Friday, Jindal and Pawlenty will be in Pittsburgh, the president will also be in Pennsylvania.

The Republican National Committee is also out with a new web video this morning that uses footage of then-Senator Joe Biden in Maumee, Ohio in September 2008 blasting the Bush administration for the rising debt. He asks the crowd, "Who are these guys?" while graphics of the debt and the deficit rising during the Obama administration tick upwards. WATCH: http://bit.ly/RfLWNn And a related research piece: http://bit.ly/M6JJ3g

A WORD FROM REINCE: "There is a Grand Canyon size 'promise gap' between what Vice President Biden said about spending the last time he was in Maumee, Ohio and what he and President Obama have actually done in office," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "America needs Governor Romney who has a record of turning deficits into surpluses and knows what it means to make a payroll. We need to send him to Washington to get our spending under control and country back on track."


ABC's RICK KLEIN: It took Mitt Romney six days to catch up to his party on the "tax" question inside the Obama health care law. The semantic and legalistic gymnastics needed to make Obamacare a "tax" and Romneycare a fee/fine/penalty/any means of getting revenue from an individual that isn't a tax, though, will take a bit longer. As with virtually anything health-care related, Romney is unable to make a clean anti-Obamacare argument by dint of his own record. For Republicans still nursing wounds from their Supreme Court loss a week ago, the one tiny gift - connecting the T-word to the new law - may not ever be fully unwrapped.

OBAMA CAMPAIGN ASKS: 'DO YOU HAVE AN OFFSHORE BANK ACCOUNT?' A new Obama for America video raises questions about Mitt Romney's offshore finances and his lack of transparency, following this week's Associated Press and Vanity Fair reports on the former Massachusetts governor's international financial holdings. Team Obama asks people on the street if they have offshore accounts and what they think of Romney's. "Until Romney releases additional years of tax returns, the American people will never know whether he created this shell corporation to intentionally avoid paying U.S. taxes," an Obama campaign press release notes. "What is Mitt Romney trying to hide?" WATCH: http://bit.ly/LVxF3C

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: OBAMA'S SWING STATE VOTERS SPEAK OUT. In interviews at Obama campaign events in Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio - four of the most intensely-contested battleground states - ABC's Devin Dwyer heard both the angst and optimism from voters. Among them, there were some tough critics. "We realize that the president did not do much of what he promised four years ago," said Delia Alkhatib of Columbus, Ohio. "But you also realize the influence of the Republicans on his efforts. They have been a roadblock at every corner. So we're keeping that in mind, and hoping that he'll be more aggressive and more of who we voted for in '08 in a second term because he'll have nothing to lose." Here's Dwyer's original video of a collection of those voter voices, party of ABC News' "Your Voice, Your Vote" series. Between now and November, ABC News plans to bring you more of these voices from around the country - Obama backers, Romney supporters and the undecided. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/MIUWvg


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

ANN ROMNEY: OBAMA'S STRATEGY IS 'KILL ROMNEY.' ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports on the Romneys' interview with CBS' Jan Crawford: "It makes you recognize that they are- gonna do everything they can- to destroy Mitt- so that he isn't gonna be the person- that we have the confidence in, that I have the confidence in, to know that he's the guy that can turn this economy around," Ann Romney told CBS' Jan Crawford. "They're trying to portray him in a light that is just completely wrong…early on we heard what their strategy was. It was kill Romney… that was their memo that came out from the- from their campaign. And it's, like, not when I'm next to him you better not." http://abcn.ws/ M7eMvJ

WOULD ROMNEY NOMINATE ROBERTS? More on the Romneys' CBS interview, from ABC's Shushannah Walshe: Crawford also asked if Romney would still nominate judges "in the mold" of Roberts considering his decision and whether Romney was troubled he "switched his vote" as Crawford reported last week. "I certainly wouldn't nominate someone who-I knew-was gonna come out with a decision I violently disagreed with or vehemently, rather, disagreed with…But-that being said, he's a very bright person."

ROMNEYS ON PARADE. ABC's Emily Friedman reports from Wolfeboro, N.H. where the Romneys are on vacation: Romney, accompanied by his wife, Ann, their five sons and more than a handful of their grandchildren, marched through the Wolfeboro town center, greeting supporters with handshakes and an occasional sweaty hug. Romney has been here since Saturday enjoying a weeklong vacation. Today marked his first public event. "Happy Fourth of July!" Romney wished supporters as he crisscrossed the street, his Secret Service agents in tow, to shake as many hands as possible. "Happy Birthday, America!" http://abcn.ws/NaCJFn

ROBERTS'S SHOT AT CONSERVATIVE REDEMPTION. Bloomberg's Greg Stohr reports: "In the nine-month term that starts in October, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider rolling back university affirmative action and may take up same-sex marriage and the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 law that protects minorities at the polling place. On the race issues in particular, Roberts is a good bet to rejoin the wing of the court that has been his ideological home since he became chief justice in 2005." http://bloom.bg/Otjlo1

OBAMA THANKS THE TROOPS. ABC's Mary Bruce reports: President Obama paid tribute to America's men and women in uniform tonight as he kicked off the White House Fourth of July celebration, telling service members gathered on the South Lawn that they "represent what is best in America." "You serve under our proud flag. You and your families sacrifice more than most of us can ever know - all in defense of those God-given rights that were first put to paper 236 years ago: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," he said. "So as your commander-in-chief - but also as an American - I want to invite all of you over to say one thing: Thank you." http://abcn.ws/Ot1Bt2

AXELROD TWEET EXPLOSION. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports on a burst of tweets from Obama strategist David Axelrod, after two news reports on Romney's finances: @DavidAxelrod: Astonishing story about Mitt's Bermuda tax shelter and his efforts to keep it secret, apparently skirting MA law. 1/4 … @DavidAxelrod: A Swiss bank account. A dozen funds in the Cayman Islands. And now, a Bermuda tax shelter he failed to report. 2/4 … @DavidAxelrod: How many of these revelations will it take for the media to demand a full accounting of Mitt's tax returns and finances? 3/4 http://abcn.ws/LzozeN

RICH VEEP, POOR VEEP. Roll Call's Janie Lorber reports on the finances of Romney's potential VPS: One of the richest Members of Congress is on the short list to be Mitt Romney's running mate. So is one of the poorest. … [Ohio Sen. Rob Portman] had a minimum net worth of $6.72 million at the end of 2011, up $1.4 million from the previous year. … On the other hand, Sen. Marco Rubio, a vice presidential hopeful, is likely among the least wealthy Members of the Senate with a net worth of negative $400,000." http://bit.ly/O8JpBa

REPUBLICANS WINNING THE CASH RACE. The Boston Globe's Brian C. Mooney reports: "The top "super PACs" supporting Republicans in the fall elections have raised more than three times as much money as super PACs aligned with Democrats, $158 million to $47 million, a Globe analysis shows. The imbalance comes as well-to-do Republicans have been far more generous than their Democratic counterparts, more frequently tossing as much as $1 million or more into the GOP cause." http://bo.st/Riq5F4

FOLLOW THE MONEY: HOUSE RACE EDITION. From The Washington Post's Dan Eggen: "Despite widespread complaints about a frenzy of campaign spending, presidential candidates raised and spent about half as much money through the first quarter of 2012 as they did four years ago, according to new data. But the trend is moving in the other direction in congressional races, with candidates raising and spending significantly more than they did in 2008, according to the calculations by the Federal Election Commission. Congressional races this year are more on par with 2010 …" http://wapo.st/M79LmT

… AND DEMS ARE SPENDING MORE ON THEM. The Hotline's Reid Wilson reports: "The DCCC has reserved a total of $46 million across dozens of media markets around the country for ads that would run during the critical October home stretch. This week, House Majority PAC, a super PAC run by a former top DCCC official, and the Service Employees International Union added another $20 million in ad reservations to that total. The NRCC has reserved about $24 million across fewer targeted media markets." http://bit.ly/M7PGhO

ALEX BALDWIN FOR MAYOR? Politico's MJ Lee reports: "Alec Baldwin's flirtation with a possible run for New York mayor may not be just for show. … 'I think on one level it's very real. I think he's very committed and extremely bright and knowledgeable and I think he could do it and he could run," Billy Baldwin said. "On the other hand, I'm not quite sure if he's cut from the proper cloth because it requires a lot of tolerance and a lot of patience and …'" http://politi.co/LVydXl


-MAKE OR BREAK IN PENNSYLVANIA. Sam Rohrer, president of the Pennsylvania Pastors' Network, and Colin Hanna, president of the conservative group, Let Freedom Ring, write in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed: "Pennsylvania has been downgraded by some pundits and may have been dropped from the list of top-priority swing states by the Romney campaign. We believe that's a mistake, and that Pennsylvania instead is poised to become the Ohio or Florida of 2012 - the battlefield that decides the outcome of the presidential race. A recently released Quinni- piac poll found Mr. Obama leading by a comfortable 6 points in a head-to-head matchup in Pennsylvania, while also showing that he has only a 46 percent job-approval rating. That's in the danger zone for any president seeking re-election …" http://bit.ly/O8FF2A


@jmartpolitico : Pander bear

@ZekeJMiller : Worth noting at the parade yesterday in Wolfeboro, Kelly Ayotte was walking about 50 feet in front of Romney shaking hands

@sissenberg : Do campaigns or administrations ever do anything hastily except arrange interviews and press conferences? (cc: @MarkLeibovich)

@nytjim : RT @dickstevenson: Here's your clip and save guide to Romney's possible VP picks. http://nyti.ms/MTZYTo

@ellencarmichael : Still. No. Power.


-President Obama embarks on the first day of his bus tour, starting with an grassroots event in Maumee, Ohio followed by an ice cream social in Sandusky and ending with an event in Parma. The president overnights in Akron, before heading to Pennsylvania on Friday.

-Mitt Romney continues with his summer vacation at his lakeside compound in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

Get more pure politics at ABC News.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com