Is it a tax? Or is it a penalty? Poor Romney is stuck in verbal circles.

Contradicting his own top campaign adviser, Mitt Romney on Wednesday declared that the individual mandate contained in President Barack Obama’s health care law is, indeed, a tax and not a penalty against those who refuse to buy coverage

“I said that I agree with the Supreme Court’s dissent, and the dissent made it very clear that they felt the individual mandate was unconstitutional,” Romney said in a released clip of a CBS News interview. “But the dissent lost. It’s in the minority. And now the Supreme Court has spoken. And while I agree with the dissent, that’s taken over by the fact that the majority of the court said it’s a tax, and therefore, it is a tax.”

Romney continued: “They have spoken. And there’s no way around that. You can try and say you wish they decided a different way, but they didn’t. They concluded it was a tax. That’s what it is.

The remarks are a complete 180 from those made by two top advisers to the Romney campaign in recent days. Spokesperson Andrea Saul, two days ago, said that the governor “thinks the mandate is an unconstitutional penalty,” not a tax. Top aide Eric Ferhnstrom, that same day, emphatically declared that the campaign did not believe the mandate was a tax.

The conundrum for Romney of course is that he did the exact same thing with health care in Massachusetts. He didn’t want to call it a tax because then he would be saying he raised taxes in Massachusetts. But conservative do want to call it a tax so they can say Obama raised taxes. So he’s stuck bouncing back and forth, parsing and twisting nuances until he’s tied up in a verbal pretzel he can’t get out of.

 Some parts from the Huffington Post ( which takes some parts from everybody else.

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