The Washington Times - July 3, 2012, 10:01AM

In typically brash fashion, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday morning brushed off an assertion Monday by a top adviser to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care law was not a tax.

“Listen, I get less concerned about what spokespeople say and more concerned about what the person who’s going to be president of the United States says,” Mr. Christie said on Fox News. “I think sometimes we get obsessed over, you know, what different spokespeople will say. You know why they’re spokespeople and not candidates? You just saw that reason. Governor Romney knows what he feels about these issues, and he feels strongly about them.”

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But is Obamacare a tax?

“Sure. Yeah,” said Mr. Christie, one of Mr. Romney’s top surrogates. “I mean listen, I thought all along that it was a tax. And I don’t think it’s exclusively a tax or a penalty — it’s both. There’s no question in my mind — it’s both … it’s meant to penalize people and it’s a tax, there’s no doubt — it’s meant to pay for a government program.”

Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Monday that Mr. Romney does not consider the mandate requiring all Americans to obtain insurance a tax — disagreeing with the Supreme Court and putting him in the same camp as Mr. Obama. That statement also undercut the tax attack against the president, which congressional Republicans had spent the previous four days building.

Former Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a centrist Republican who endorsed Mr. Romney and could help boost him in voter-rich Northern Virginia, agreed with Mr. Christie on the tax question later Tuesday morning on MSNBC.

“It’s a tax — the Supreme Court said it was a tax,” Mr. Davis said.