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FEHRNSTROM'S SHARP QUIPS, ELBOWS HELP ROMNEY

Communications professor Trevor Parry-Giles analyzes Romney’s response to the health insurance mandate ruling.

By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

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Pundits buzzed this week when Fehrnstrom said in an interview on MSNBC that Romney believes the so-called individual mandate in President Obama's health care reform law is no tax.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the mandate is constitutional under Congress' taxing power."He agreed with the dissent written by Justice (Antonin) Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax," Fehrnstrom said.

The Romney campaign says Fehrnstrom is a key member of the governor's inner circle.

"Eric is well-respected inside the campaign and is one of the people the governor turns to for advice," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.The statement on the individual mandate would seem to put Romney out of step with fellow Republicans, who, since shortly after the Supreme Court's announcement, have hammered the idea that the mandate is a tax.

Was this another "Etch-A-Sketch" moment, when Fehrnstrom suggested on CNN during the March primaries that the Romney campaign could change its tone and "shake it up and restart all over again" closer to the general election?

Or was this a shrewd move to assuage worried moderates and independents and draw fire away from Romney?

Signs, political experts say, point to the latter.

"It's still kind of ham-handed, but it served a strategic purpose," said Trevor Parry-Giles, a political communication professor at the University of Maryland. "What (Romney) has to confront is that he did the exact same thing in Massachusetts. And that he's not as hard-nosed and doctrinaire as he sounds. He's trapped in this weird realm where he has to appeal to the base but still attract the center. ... Health care is a particularly thorny issue."

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Date of Publication: 
7/3/12