Axelrod: Romney "folded" to pressure from the right on health care

(CBS News) Top Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod continued to hammer Mitt Romney's recent decision to label the health care mandate a "tax" rather than a mandate, accusing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee of having "folded" to pressure from the right and "walking away from" his previous beliefs.

Axelrod, appearing on "CBS This Morning" Friday, reiterated the Obama administration's argument that the individual mandate, "whether you call it a mandate, whether you call it a tax, what it is is a penalty on the less than 1 percent of Americans who can afford health insurance and refuse to buy it then show up in our emergency rooms and stick the rest of us with the tab."

Up until this week, Axelrod said, President Obama was not the only candidate espousing this argument.

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"This is precisely the argument that Gov. Romney made for six years and his campaign made as late as last week," Axelrod said. "Then, as the president said, he got some heat from Rush [Limbaugh] and the right and the guys in the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill and he folded."

After last week's landmark Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama's health care law, Romney initially broke with Republicans and sided with the Obama administration, insisting that the fee some Americans will have to pay if they choose not to buy health insurance is a "penalty" rather than a tax. The former Massachusetts governor had passed a similar health care law during his gubernatorial tenure, which included an individual mandate analogous to the one under scrutiny in the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act. If Romney were to concede that Mr. Obama's law included a tax on the middle class, it could be inferred that he too had taxed his constituents while Massachusetts governor.

Republicans, however, were eager to capitalize on the notion that Mr. Obama's health care law equated to a tax on the middle class, and Romney on Wednesday clarified his position on the matter in an interview with Jan Crawford.

"The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation, and it said that it's a tax, so it's a tax," Romney told Crawford on Wednesday. "They have spoken. There's no way around that."

On Friday, Axelrod targeted him for "walking away from his argument."

"He made a very strong stand on this and he's walking away from his argument," he said. "He was the leading exponent in America - you know, they're the only state in America that's actually enacted this mandate, this penalty, and now he walks away from it because he gets a little heat from his party? I think it's extraordinary."

Axelrod also doubled down on a recent statement in which he cast Romney as "the most secretive candidate since Richard Nixon."

Citing the Romney campaign's announcement Thursday that it had raised $100 million in June, Axelrod argued that Romney is keeping the public in the dark about where that money is coming from.

"You mention the $100 million that Mitt Romney raised. You know, he's the first presidential candidate since [Nixon's] time - in recent years, Republicans and Democrats have all revealed whose raising money for them, the so-called bundlers -- you have no idea, as we sit here, who's raising this money for Mitt Romney," he said.

He also brought up a recent report from the Associated Press on an offshore company that the Romney family kept "invisible to voters."

"We just learned the other day, Jeff, from the Associated Press that Gov. Romney has this Bermuda business and he transferred it to his wife's ownership the day before he became governor of Massachusetts so he wouldn't have to put it on an ethics form," Axelrod said. "This is the most secretive candidate since Richard Nixon. What happened after Nixon is we as a country said, we need a higher level of disclosure. So people know who their candidates are, what their entanglements are and we can make judgments on it."

"Gov. Romney and his campaign have stonewalled and are trying to turn the clock back 50 years on transparency and disclosure," he added.