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Team Romney: No, we’re not declaring ‘cease-fire’ on Obamacare

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Photo - In this June 21 file photo, Mitt Romney speaks in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
In this June 21 file photo, Mitt Romney speaks in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

In the days since the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare, some Democrats and commentators in the press have suggested that Mitt Romney is declaring a “cease-fire” on the issue and will no longer make it a centerpiece of his campaign to defeat President Obama.

“Romney Campaign Declaring Cease Fire on Health Care,” reads the headline of a story on the National Journal website.  “For an issue that’s supposedly potent against Democrats, Romney’s campaign is declaring a cease fire,” writes National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar.  Less definitively, Scott Conroy at RealClearPolitics writes that as Romney spends the Fourth of July holiday in New Hampshire, “the extent to which he will emphasize health care in the months ahead remained uncertain.”

If Romney has, in fact, declared a “cease-fire” over Obamacare, that would certainly be welcome news to the Obama campaign, where officials have expressed a desire to move on from the troubled and unpopular health care law.  “After SCOTUS ruling, poll says Americans want to move on,” tweeted top campaign aide David Axelrod Monday.  “But GOP Congress?  They want to have themselves a Tea Party.”  Axelrod was referring to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey in which, according to a Los Angeles Times report, “a majority of Americans now want to put the fight over the Affordable Care Act behind them.”

So is the Romney campaign, in fact, declaring a “cease-fire” on Obamacare?  No, no, no, says Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.  “From our perspective, Obamacare has been and will continue to be a central issue in the campaign,” says Williams.  “It presents voters with a bright line that divides the two candidates.  Gov. Romney is going to repeal Obamacare and President Obama is going to keep it. There is a clear choice in November.”

“It is something that [Romney] has been discussing on the campaign trail for the past year and that he will continue to discuss,” Williams adds.  “It is bad law, it is bad policy, and it’s something that Gov. Romney is going to address on his first day in office.  His commitment to repealing Obamacare is as strong as it was on the day Congress jammed it down the throat of the American public.”

Williams says Romney agrees with the conservative dissent — signed jointly by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — which declares Obamacare an unconstitutional federal mandate.  Williams notes that Romney made a public statement, shortly after the Supreme Court decision was announced, pledging his continued determination to repeal the health care law.  In addition, Romney’s “Day One” commercials, which prominently feature the promise to repeal Obamacare, are still playing in several states.  The campaign also released a web ad after the Supreme Court decision, promising to keep up the Obamacare fight.  It also made regular announcements on the amount of money the campaign raised from supporters who oppose the Supreme Court ruling. And Romney’s campaign website, MittRomney.com, is filled with emphatic promises to repeal Obamacare.

All in all, it’s hard to characterize as a “cease-fire.”

Some of the “cease-fire” speculation focuses on Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom’s statement Monday that Romney “disagrees with the Court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax.”  Democrats and some of their allies in the press have jumped on those words, suggesting they indicate Romney agrees with President Obama on the question.  But the Romney campaign has said clearly that Romney sides with the Court’s conservative dissenters and believes Obamacare is unconstitutional.  How that puts him in agreement with the president is hard to fathom.  Nor does it suggest that Romney will back off his promise to get rid of Obamacare.

In any event, if Romney were even thinking about de-emphasizing the pledge to repeal Obamacare — and there is no evidence that he is — he got a quick reminder from the conservative world to stay the course.  “If Mitt Romney calls a ‘cease fire’ on Obamacare,” tweeted radio host Laura Ingraham Tuesday, “he might as well buy his tickets now for the Obama inauguration.”

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