Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus made "kind of a gaffe" when he insisted that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate was a tax, former RNC chair Michael Steele said on Tuesday's Hardball.
"It then flips the script, and all of a sudden now you have Romney, or at least his spokespeople, saying, 'No, it's a penalty, we agree with the president,'" said Steele. "And that just gives the president a wider swath to make the argument about his health care plan in the face of a penalty versus a tax."
Republicans have struggled lately to define why they're opposed to the individual mandate, an policy originally written by Republicans and made a key component of Romney's Massachusetts health care legislation. The argument that the individual mandate is unconstitutional hinges on its being construed as something other than a tax, but in recent days prominent Republicans have evidently embraced the "tax" label as a pejorative.
That's what Priebus was doing when he made the "gaffe" Steele referred to. Earlier in the day, he told CNN: "Our position is the same as Mitt Romney's position: It's a tax." As Hardball guest host Michael Smerconish pointed out, Romney spokesperson Eric Ferhnstrom has made the same argument.