In the week since the Supreme Court ruling, Republicans have criticized Obama by pointing to the tax and accusing him of raising taxes. Democrats, meanwhile, have been eager to accuse Romney of also raising taxes in Massachusetts. They cite a 2009 opinion piece in which Romney wrote that Massachusetts "established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance." In the piece, he acknowledged that the requirement amounted to a tax: "Using tax penalties, as we did … encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves."
Romney's comments to CBS came in an interview conducted in Wolfeboro before he marched in the town's Fourth of July parade, holding hands with his wife, Ann. He also was joined by New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a possible candidate for a running mate.
"I see you waterskiing!" one parade-watcher told Romney as he crossed from one side of Main Street to the other, shaking hands with well-wishers. "Oh, I do it from time to time," Romney replied, smiling. At the end of the parade, he spoke to a crowd waiting at Brewster Academy.
Romney is spending this week on vacation at his lakeside estate. His participation in the parade through the center of town was his only official public appearance during a weeklong family break from campaigning.
Yet, it was not the first time that Romney has been seen around Wolfeboro since he arrived last weekend. His entire family – now numbering 30 in all – has gathered at Romney's home on Lake Winnipesaukee for the annual family vacation. And even though the family patriarch is now the presumed Republican candidate for president, many of their normal routines haven't changed. They've attended church, bought ice cream in town and taken the boat out on the lake.
Still, the vacation hasn't been all fun and games for the likely Republican presidential nominee. Romney huddled Tuesday with top advisers, including his campaign manager and the aide overseeing his vice presidential search. His top strategist was in town shooting video for new TV ads.
Officially, the week by the lake gives Romney some time to focus on his family and relax before the campaign push to the GOP convention in August. But unofficially, the down time also is a chance for the contemplative Romney to consider how the campaign is going and to adjust strategy as necessary in a contest that polls show is close.
Underscoring the stakes, Obama canceled his annual summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. He spent a long holiday weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat and returned to Washington on Wednesday for the Fourth of July.
Behind the scenes in Wolfeboro, Romney is all but certain to be at work just as much as he is at play – and probably focused on the biggest decision he will make between now and when he accepts the GOP's presidential nomination at the convention. His self-imposed deadline for picking a running mate "before the convention" is looming large and the search for a No. 2 is well under way.
His campaign has stayed mum on whether that was a topic of conversation Tuesday when he and his wife spent at least 45 minutes talking with campaign manager Matt Rhoades, senior adviser Beth Myers and top strategist Stuart Stevens on the deck that overlooks the lawn behind his home. Romney's five sons – particularly his eldest son, Tagg – also serve as informal political advisers, and all have been on hand this week, virtually ensuring that the campaign and the running mate search were discussed.
Romney's vacation ends Sunday when he's scheduled to head to New York for fundraising events — and to resume his campaign schedule fulltime.