Such findings delight Republican operatives. For Obama, Thursday's ruling was "probably the most damaging of all possible outcomes," GOP strategist Mike McKenna said.
"Identifying the mandate as a tax shears away all of the pretense," McKenna said. "It will energize everyone on the right, even those with deep reservations about Romney."
Another Republican campaign veteran, Terry Holt, said: "Obama might have his law, but the GOP has a cause."
Obama seemed eager to avoid the tax debate Thursday. He did not mention taxes in his 1,200-word speech before cameras.
The president's allies might be more willing to engage. If Republicans insist on calling the health insurance fee a tax, said Tanden, who now heads the Center for American Progress, "then the only person in America who has implemented that policy is Mitt Romney."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Charles Babington covers politics for The Associated Press.
An AP News Analysis
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