The Washington Times - July 6, 2012, 08:17AM

David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief messaging guru, continued the campaign’s all-out push on Friday to highlight presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s changing position on whether the individual insurance mandate in Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul is a penalty or a tax.

“He got some heat from Rush [Limbaugh] and the right and the guys in the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill and he folded,” Mr. Axelrod said on “CBS This Morning.” “More than a discussion of health care, it does give you an insight into how he were to operate if he were president.”

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A Romney advisor earlier this week said the mandate was not a tax, only to be countered by Mr. Romney himself on Wednesday, who said it was.

“The point is that he made a very strong stand on this, and he’s walking away from his argument,” Mr. Axelrod said. “The fact is, either you believe that free riders ought to pump up the cost of health care for everybody else, or you don’t. And now apparently this fundamental principle that he was the leading exponent on in America … and now he walks away from it because he gets a little heat from his party? I think it’s extraordinary.”

Mr. Romney’s campaign, for its part, has thrown the question right back at the Obama campaign, saying it is being deceitful in not accepting the Supreme Court’s label of a tax. Fearful of the political fallout of acknowledging a tax, the White House and Mr. Obama’s campaign have both said the mandate is enforced by a penalty — though during the last two years of legal arguments up to and including the high court Mr. Obama’s legal team argued it was indeed a tax.