There's some truth in this, however, both sides are doing it. The Obama Administration continues to insist it's a penalty, perhaps fearing political blowback for "raising taxes." I agree with Mike Norman that it's still a tax cut when you factor in the new government dollars to help people with their health expenses even if it were a tax but my overall feeling is "whatever."
I doubt there is much percentage in this question politically. And what was surprising is that Romney seems to agree as his campaign is also calling it a penalty:
"Since Thursday's ruling, many Republicans have accused Obama of imposing a massive "tax" through his health-care law, saying it disproves the president's claim that he has not raised taxes on the middle class."
"But on Monday, Obama's rival for the White House, Republican Mitt Romney, took some of the air out of his party's assault on the president over health care.
"Campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom acknowledged that Romney does not see the health-care law as a tax, and instead considers it a penalty."
Romney's reasoning seems to be dead on:
"Fehrnstrom's comments to MSNBC, which were accompanied by a new push by the Romney campaign to focus on jobs, indicated that Romney's team does not want to linger on the health-care ruling — a victory for Obama in court — and instead is keen to highlight Obama's weakness, the economy."
Of course, I'm tempted to say that Romney ought to know as it's his law. Guess I did.
The penalty-tax distinction has further implications beyond the campaign. Actually one thing that sometimes occurs to me is that the GOP is in many ways looking past the Romney campaign. Romney is right I really think to not want to dwell on Obamacare as it's an Obama victory-then there's the little fact that it was Romney's law before Obama so him running against it with a straight face is always bizzare. Also the Darrell Issa witch hunt on Holder seems much more a plan to harass the President in the second term than anything that can help Romney in his campaign.
However, if Romney does win along with a GOP Senate-in the event he won, a Senate would be quite possible, then the only way for them to nibble around the edges on Obamacare is through budget reconciliation. They couldn't abolish it over night but they could defund a number of aspects of it.
They can gut the individual mandate-at least finacially-if it its a tax which no doubt they will declare, though this would still be up to the Senate parliamentarian to decide. At this point there's little for Romney to gain by this fight. So it makes sense for him to go back to blaming Obama for the economy.
Those who want to repeal have to hope he wins. Yet to the extent that they give him a hard time for not calling it a tax and getting him bogged down in the debate again they may even be acting in a way counterproductive to their goals.