Romney 'Squandering An Historic Opportunity,' Scathing Editorial Says

By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown
By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown

(CNN) - An editorial in the Wall Street Journal fiercely criticized Mitt Romney Thursday, days after media titan Rupert Murdoch, who owns the paper, suggested the candidate replace his staff.

The editorial took particular aim at Team Romney's handling of the Supreme Court decision that upheld the health care reform law as a tax, and was therefore ruled constitutional.

It starts off pointing to Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom for straying away from the party line earlier this week, when he called the health care fee a "penalty," rather than a tax.

"For conservative optimists who think Mr. Fehrnstrom misspoke or is merely dense, his tax absolution gift to Mr. Obama was confirmed by campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, who tried the same lame jujitsu spin. In any event, Mr. Fehrnstrom is part of the Boston coterie who are closest to Mr. Romney, and he wouldn't say such a thing without the candidate's approval," stated the editorial board, which typically leans conservative.

Romney, who signed off on a similar health care law as former Massachusetts governor, attempted to clarify his own position in a CBS interview aired Wednesday. He said the penalty was in fact a tax, as ruled by the Supreme Court–unlike his Massachusetts law, which he said was a penalty.

"States can implement penalties and mandates and so forth under their constitutions, which is what Massachusetts did," he said. "But the federal government does not have those powers, and therefore for the Supreme Court to reach the conclusion it did – that the law was constitutional – they had to find it was a tax, and they did."

However, the Wall Street Journal said Romney "offered no elaboration" in his interview, and "the campaign looks confused in addition to being politically dumb."

The editorial argued the campaign's latest snafu was a sign of larger ineptitude within what they described as Romney's "insular" team. It insisted the candidate's hesitation to forcefully come out and call the penalty a tax sooner was "slowly squandering an historic opportunity."

"Mr. Obama is being hurt by an economic recovery that is weakening for the third time in three years. But Mr. Romney hasn't been able to take advantage, and if anything he is losing ground," the editorial read.

The article was published just days after Murdoch, followed by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, took to Twitter to say President Barack Obama's team will be hard to beat unless Romney hired new team members.

Romney campaign spokeswoman Saul reacted to Murdoch's tweets Tuesday, writing: "Gov. Romney respects Rupert Murdoch and also respects his team and has confidence in them."

– CNN's Kevin Liptak and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

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